INDIO, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 27: Guitarist Gary Rossington, founding member of Lynyrd Skynyrd, performs onstage during Day 2 of the Stagecoach Music Festival on April 27, 2019 in Indio, California.
Scott Dudelson/Getty Images for Stagecoach

Gary Rossington, Lynyrd Skynyrd Co-Founder and Guitarist, Dies at Age 71


Per an announcement by the band, Lynyrd Skynyrd's Gary Rossington died on Sunday evening (March 5) at age 71.

"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 read. "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."

A band co-founder and innovator of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame group's multiple-guitar sound, Rossington was the last living original member of Lynyrd Skynyrd. The band was formed in 1964 in Jacksonville, Fla. by Rossington, lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, bassist Larry Junstrom, guitarist Allen Collins and drummer Bob Burns. Debut album Pronounced 'L?h-'nérd 'Skin-'nérd followed in 1974. By then, the group had settled into its classic lineup, with Billy Powell on keyboards, Ed King on guitar and Leon Wilkeson on bass.

UNSPECIFIED - JANUARY 01: Photo of Leon WILKESON and Ed KING and Gary ROSSINGTON and Billy POWELL and LYNYRD SKYNYRD and Ronnie VAN ZANT and Allen COLLINS; L-R: Leon Wilkeson, Billy Powell, Ronnie Van Zant, Gary Rossington, Bob Burns, Allen Collins, Ed King - posed, group shot


Rossington was the only founding member to play in every version Skynyrd, both live and in studio. For examples of his virtuosic playing, look no further than some of the band's biggest hits. Nine-minute anthem "Free Bird" features Rossington on slide guitar. He plays lead guitar on the serene "Tuesday's Gone." Elsewhere in the catalog, Rossington co-wrote "Sweet Home Alabama" and a 1976 car accident he survived inspired the warning tale "That Smell."


He was among the survivors of a 1977 plane crash in Mississippi that killed Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines, backup singer Cassie Gaines and three others.

No cause of death has been revealed. He faced a series of heart problems over the past 20 years, beginning with quintuple bypass surgery in 2003. He suffered a heart attack in 2015 and underwent emergency heart surgery in 2021.