A look back at the life of the last founding member of Jacksonville’s legendary Lynyrd Skynyrd

JACKSONVILLE, Florida. – The Jacksonville-based rock band’s last founder, Lynyrd Skynyrd, died on Sunday, according to a statement posted by the band’s official Facebook account.

Songwriter and guitarist Gary Rossington was 71.

The group has not said how Rossington died but he suffered from a number of heart problems over the years.

“It is with our deepest sympathy and sadness that we have to inform you that we have lost our brother, friend, family member, songwriter and guitarist, Gary Rossington, today. Gary is now with his Skynyrd brothers. and his family in heaven and he plays beautifully, as he always does. Please keep Dale, Mary, Annie and the entire Rossington family in your prayers and respect the privacy of the family during this difficult time,” the band wrote on his Facebook page.

RELATED: Jacksonville’s Historic Role in the Founding of Southern Rock

Rossington was one of the surviving members of the 1977 plane crash in Mississippi that killed six people, including three band members.

News4JAX anchor Tom Wills, who traveled to Mississippi to cover the crash, also interviewed Rossington at the St. Augustine Amphitheater in 2017, where they discussed the horrors of Rossington’s experience in the crash. ‘accident.

The Jacksonville-based group who named themselves as a mocking tribute to Robert E. Lee High School, which was recently renamed Riverside High School, physical education teacher Leonard Skinner, who harassed Rossington about his long hair , is widely recognized as the first band to bring Southern rock music to an international audience.

Tributes to Rossington’s life poured in after his death.

Metallica frontman James Hetfield said, “RIP Brother Gary. Thank you for bringing me so much joy with your guitar playing and songwriting in one of my favorite bands of all time, Lynyrd Skynyrd.

“The last of the Free Birds has gone home. RIP Gary Rossington, God bless the Lynyrd @Skynyrd band. Prayers to Dale and the rest of his family,” wrote musician Charlie Daniels.

Country musician Travis Tritt wrote: “I am heartbroken! Gary was not just a friend, but a collaborator who wrote songs with me and played guitar with me on studio recordings and on stage so many times.

According to Rolling Stone, during a Little League game, Ronnie Van Zant hit a line in the shoulder blades of opposing player Bob Burns.

This is how the team met and eventually Rossington, Burns, Van Zant and guitarist Allen Collins got together that afternoon at Burns’ home in Jacksonville to play music together.

Rossington once told “Rolling Stone” that he never considered Skynyrd a tragic band, despite all the drama and death of the band.

“I don’t consider it a tragedy – I consider it a lifetime,” he said during the band’s induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2006. “I think the good outweighs on evil.”

FILE – In this Friday, Feb. 4, 2005 file photo, members of Lynyrd Skynyrd, from left, Rickey Medlocke, Gary Rossington and Ean Evans, practice at the Jacksonville Production Studio in Jacksonville, Fla., for their performance Saturday as part of the Super Bowl Concert Series. Lynyrd Skynyrd pulled out of the Pro Football Hall of Fame concert after guitarist Rickey Medlocke tested positive for COVID-19, Saturday, August 7, 2021. The band were scheduled to co-headline the concert Monday night with Brad Paisley. According to a statement from the band, Medlocke’s positive test forced the band’s withdrawal. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt, File) (AP 2005)

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