Monday, March 23, 2009

Lynyrd Skynyrd Will Never Die

Southern rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd, arguably the most tragic band of all time, lost another longtime member in January with the death of piano player Billy Powell. Billy's death follows a long string of ill-fated events that started with the infamous 1977 plane crash that killed band members Ronnie Van Zandt, Steve Gaines, and Cassie Gaines.

Plane crash survivor/guitarist Allen Collins was paralyzed from the waist down due to a 1986 car accident that killed his girlfriend, in which Collins was found to be under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Collins would never play guitar on stage again following the accident, but he did tour with the band as a musical director during their 1987 reunion tour. He died in 1990 from pneumonia, resulting from complications following the car accident.

Bassist Leon Wilkeson also survived the plane crash but his left arm was so badly broken that he had to play bass in a more upright position because he couldn't fully extend his arm. In another near death experience Leon was found sleeping with his throat cut and bleeding profusely, an incident he survived and which there is still mystery surrounding. He was found dead in a hotel room in 2001, with his passing attributed to natural causes.

Following Wilkeson's death the band remained with only two longtime members participating: piano player Billy Powell and guitar player Gary Rossington. Despite a pact with Ronnie Van Zant's widow that at least three longtime members would have to participate for the band to use the name 'Lynyrd Skynyrd,' the band continued on with the name anyway.

With the now recent death of Billy Powell in January, the band still shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, they have just announced their signing with Roadrunner Records, plans of their first new studio album in six years, and a summer cross-country tour with Kid Rock. The album will contain six songs which Powell already recorded before his death.

At this time, the only longtime band member still part of the group is Gary Rossington. If I were him, I would sleep with one eye open. Other surviving early members Artimus Pyle (drums) and Ed King (guitar) have not played with the band in many years (Pyle in 1991 and King in 1996).

Despite all the tragedy I mentioned here and honestly many more incidents that I did not include, Lynyrd Skynyrd as a band just keeps on truckin'. In honor of Skynyrd and the late Billy Powell, take a listen to one of my favorite tracks of theirs, live from the 1976 Knebworth festival, "Searchin."

1 comment:

rockandrollguru said...

I'm looking forward to seeing them when they play Summerfest. Always a great show.