Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Oct. 20: Ronnie Van Zandt lead vocalist for Lynyrd Skynrd, "Free Bird," "Sweet Home Alabama" - died on this date in 1977...

... he was 29 when he died from injuries sustained in a plane crash.

Ronald Wayne "Ronnie" Van Zant was the lead vocalist, primary lyricist, and a founding member of the Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd. He was the older brother of the founder and vocalist of 38 Special, Donnie Van Zant, and of current Lynyrd Skynyrd lead vocalist Johnny Van Zant.

Born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida, he considered becoming a boxer and playing professional baseball. Ronnie also tossed around the idea of becoming a stock-car racer.

Van Zant formed Skynyrd late in the summer of 1964. Leonard Skinner was a Jacksonville, Florida high school gym teacher who, during the late 1960s sent a group of his students to the principal’s audience for for having long hair. 

A few years later, those school friends, Ronnie Van Zant, Allen Collins and Gary Rossington, named their newly formed rock band, Lynyrd Skynyrd as an inside joke tribute to their former coach at Robert E. Lee High School. 

(Continued below video and Amazon portals ...)

(Press album cover for direct link to the entire Amazon Website):

Lynyrd Skynyrd - All Time Greatest Hits


The band's national exposure began in 1973 with the release of their self-named debut album, which has a string of hits and fan favorites including: "I Ain't the One," "Tuesday's Gone," "Gimme Three Steps," "Simple Man," and their signature song, "Free Bird," which he later dedicated to the late Duane Allman of The Allman Brothers Band.

Lynyrd Skynyrd's biggest hit single was "Sweet Home Alabama," although "Free Bird" was a close second, which came off the album Second Helping. "Sweet Home Alabama" was an answer song to Neil Young's "Alabama" and "Southern Man." Van Zant and Young were fans of each other and considered collaborating on several occasions.

Young's song "Powderfinger" on the 1979 album Rust Never Sleeps was reportedly written for Skynyrd, and Van Zant is pictured on the cover of Street Survivors wearing a T-shirt of Young's Tonight's the Night.

On October 20, 1977, a Convair 240 carrying the band between shows from Greenville, South Carolina to Baton Rouge, Louisiana crashed outside of Gillsburg, Mississippi. The passengers had been informed about problems and told to brace for impact.

Van Zant died in the crash on impact, after he struck a tree. Bandmates Steve Gaines, Cassie Gaines, assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick, pilot Walter McCreary, and co-pilot William Gray were also killed. Remaining band members survived, although all were seriously injured.

Van Zant's younger brother, Johnny, took over as the new lead singer when the band reunited in 1987.


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