WASHINGTON, March 6, 2023 (BSS/AFP) - Guitarist Gary Rossington, the last remaining original member of US rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, died on Sunday, the band said. He was 71.
Rossington was a founding member of the Southern rock group best known for the 1974 song "Sweet Home Alabama."
"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 band wrote on Facebook.
"Gary is now with his Skynyrd brothers and family in heaven and playing it pretty, like he always does," it added.
The band did not announce a cause of death, but Rossington had suffered a series of heart problems, including undergoing emergency heart surgery in 2021, according to a post from the group at the time.
Rossington was born in 1951 in the southern state of Florida, founding the first iteration of Lynyrd Skynyrd in 1964 with drummer Bob Burns and bassist Larry Junstrom.
He contributed the distinct slide guitar leads that helped make the band's 1973 nearly 10-minute-long "Free Bird" a lasting hit.
The guitarist survived several brutal accidents in the 1970s, including a serious car accident in 1976 and the infamous plane crash in 1977 that killed three members of the band.
The group broke up after the deaths of lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines and backing vocalist Cassie Gaines in the crash, but reformed in 1987 with new members, including Van Zant's younger brother, Johnny, on lead vocals.
Rossington was the only original member still with the band, which has continued to perform, with a festival date set for this month.
The right-leaning rockers were among bands that took to the stage on the sidelines of the 2016 Republican convention.