Gary Rossington, the founding guitarist of Lynyrd Skynyrd, has died at the age of 71.
As confirmed on the band’s official Facebook page, Rossington passed away on Sunday (March 5). “It is with our deepest sympathy and sadness that we have to advise, that we lost our brother, friend, family member, songwriter and guitarist, Gary Rossington, today,” the statement began.
“Gary is now with his Skynyrd brothers and family in heaven and playing it pretty, like he always does. Please keep Dale, Mary, Annie and the entire Rossington family in your prayers and respect the family’s privacy at this difficult time.”
No cause of death has been given.
The band formed in 1964 and went on to make a name for themselves with hits such as ‘Free Bird’ and ‘Sweet Home Alabama’. The original iteration of the band was active until 1977, where they were involved in a plane crash that killed Van Zant, touring guitarist Steve Gaines, backing vocalist Cassie Gaines, assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick and both pilots. The rest of the passengers were seriously injured.
They later reformed in 1987 with Van Zant’s brother Johnny taking over as vocalist and have continued to tour ever since.
Rossington was the only member of Lynyrd Skynyrd to play on all of their albums and was the last surviving member of the original line-up. Guitarist Allen Collins passed away in 1990 aged 37, while drummer Bob Burns died in a car crash in 2015 aged 64, and bassist Larry Junstrom died in 2019 aged 70.
Rossington had emergency surgery to have a stent fitted in his heart in 2021, but went on to make a full recovery. He previously suffered a heart attack in 2015.
According to The Guardian, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s upcoming US tour with ZZ Top in four months’ time is expected to go ahead despite Rossington’s death.
Rossington is survived by his wife, Dale Krantz-Rossington, their two daughters and several grandchildren.