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Gary Rossington, Last Surviving Original Member of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Dies at 71

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A.D. Amorosi Guitarist and songwriter Gary Rossington, the last surviving founding member of Lynyrd Skynyrd, died Sunday at the age of 71.

No immediate cause of death was given. Rossington had dealt with serious health issues in recent years, including emergency heart surgery in 2021, almost two decades after undergoing quintuple bypass surgery in 2003. “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,” Lynyrd Skynyrd wrote on its official Facebook page. “Gary is now with his Skynyrd brothers and family in Heaven and playing it pretty, like he always does.” The guitarist was known for contributing one of the most famous rock guitar solos of all time to the band’s anthemic “Free Bird,” as well for co-writing Skynyrd classics such as “Sweet Home Alabama.” In December, Lynyrd Skynyrd had announced a 22-city co-headlining tour with ZZ Top that was scheduled to begin in July.

The group had gigs booked sooner than that, though; the most recent announcement on its Twitter account advertised a show that was to have taken place just a week away at the Florida Strawberry Festival on March 12.

Skynyrd’s last concert with Rossington was Feb. 23 at AT&T Center in San Antonio. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the group’s debut album, “Pronounced Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd.” Rossington had a number of “cheating death” experiences over the decades — most famously surviving the 1977 plane crash that killed the Florida rock band’s lead vocalist, Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines, backup singer Cassie Gaines and several members of their road and flight crews.

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