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Lynyrd Skynyrd is a legendary American rock band with a rich and tumultuous history.
Formed in Jacksonville, Florida in 1964, the band achieved worldwide fame and became one of the most iconic Southern rock bands in history. Here is a detailed history of Lynyrd Skynyrd:
Early Years (1964-1972):
1. Formation: Lynyrd Skynyrd was initially formed by a group of high school friends in 1964. The original members included Ronnie Van Zant (vocals), Gary Rossington (guitar), Allen Collins (guitar), Larry Junstrom (bass), and Bob Burns (drums). The band's name was a tribute to their gym teacher, Leonard Skinner, who often punished students for having long hair.
2. Early Performances: Lynyrd Skynyrd gained popularity by performing at local clubs and high school dances. They honed their distinctive sound, a blend of blues, rock, and country that became the hallmark of Southern rock.
3. First Album: In 1973, the band released their debut album, "Pronounced 'Lĕh-'nérd 'Skin-'nérd," which included the hit song "Free Bird." This album established their reputation as a rising force in the music industry.
Rise to Stardom (1973-1977):
1. "Sweet Home Alabama": Lynyrd Skynyrd's second album, "Second Helping," was released in 1974 and featured the hit single "Sweet Home Alabama." The song became an anthem and is still one of the most recognizable tracks in rock history.
2. More Success: Over the next few years, the band released successful albums, including "Nuthin' Fancy" (1975) and "Gimme Back My Bullets" (1976). They continued to tour extensively and gained a loyal following.
3. Plane Crash: Tragedy struck on October 20, 1977, when Lynyrd Skynyrd's plane, a Convair CV-240, crashed in a Mississippi swamp. The crash resulted in the deaths of Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines (guitar), and Cassie Gaines (backup vocals). The band's other members suffered injuries.
Hiatus and Reformation (1977-1987):
1. Disbandment: In the wake of the plane crash, Lynyrd Skynyrd disbanded. It seemed like the end of an era for the band, as they had lost some of their key members, including their charismatic frontman Ronnie Van Zant.
2. Survivors' Projects: Some of the surviving members pursued their own musical projects during the hiatus. Ronnie Van Zant's younger brother, Johnny Van Zant, became the lead vocalist for the band .38 Special. Gary Rossington, Allen Collins, and Billy Powell also formed the Rossington Collins Band.
Reunion and Continued Success (1987-2009):
1. Reformation: In 1987, Lynyrd Skynyrd reformed with Ronnie Van Zant's younger brother, Johnny Van Zant, taking over as the lead vocalist. The band released a new album, "Lynyrd Skynyrd 1991," and resumed touring.
2. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: In 2006, Lynyrd Skynyrd was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, recognizing their significant contributions to rock music.
3. Albums and Tours: The reformed band continued to release albums and tour extensively, maintaining a dedicated fan base. They released albums like "God & Guns" (2009) and "Last of a Dyin' Breed" (2012).
Tragedies and Ongoing Legacy (2009-Present):
1. Tragedies Continue: The band faced more tragedies in the 2000s, with the deaths of founding member Billy Powell and longtime bassist Ean Evans.
2. Current Lineup: Despite these losses, Lynyrd Skynyrd continues to tour and perform with a lineup that includes original member Gary Rossington and new members who carry on the band's legacy.
3. End of the Road: In 2018, the band announced their "Last of the Street Survivors Farewell Tour," intending to retire from the road. This tour symbolized the end of their extensive touring, but Lynyrd Skynyrd still performs at special events.
Lynyrd Skynyrd's enduring legacy in Southern rock and their timeless hits like "Free Bird" and "Sweet Home Alabama" continue to influence and inspire new generations of rock musicians. Their journey, marked by triumphs and tragedies, has solidified their place in the pantheon of rock and roll history.