Sunday, September 09, 2012
Lynyrd Skynyrd Drops Confederate Flag
Lynyrd Skynyrd – the last of a dying breed – announced today that they were dropping the Confederate Flag as a backdrop to their concerts.
Guys as old as me, raised in working class neighborhoods, will always count Lynyrd Skynyrd as one of the best rock and roll bands of all time. Kings of the “southern rock” style, the band had seven platinum albums between 1973 and 1977, which included their iconic hits “Freebird,” “Sweet Home Alabama,” “That Smell,” and “Simple Man.” The ubiquitous Confederate Flag hung as a backdrop at every concert, and the band regularly expressed pride in their southern (Gainesville, Florida) origins.
But according to the aging members of the band, the time has come to portray themselves as Americans, and the American flag will replace the confederate flag at concerts.
“Groups like the KKK have hijacked the flag, and we don’t want our fans to think that we’re associated with that kind of thinking,” said Gary Rossington, the last remaining original member of the band.
In one of the most famous set of lyrics in rock history, Lynyrd Skynyrd used their song “Sweet Home Alabama” to refute criticism aimed at the south by fellow-rocket Neil Young:
“Well I heard old Neil sing about her;
Yes I heard ol’ Neil put her down.
Well I hope Neil Young will remember
A southern man don't need him around anyhow.”
At the height of their success in 1977 – the year I graduated High School – tragedy struck. On October 20, 1977, just three days after the release of “Street Survivors” – an album eerily named and even more eerily designed with the cover engulfed in flames - their plane ran out of fuel near the end of their flight from Greenvilee, South Carolina to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The plane crashed in Gillsburg, Mississippi, killing lead singer/guitarist Ronnie Van Zand, Steve Gaines, Cassie Gaines, assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick, pilot Walter McCreary and co-pilot William Gray. The other band members: Allen Collins, Gary Rossington, Leon Wilkeson, Gary Powell, Artemis Pyle, and Leslie Hawkins) and road crew suffered serious injuries.
After a breakup of the band following the crash, Rossington, Collins, Wilkeson and Powell formed a new band, the Rossington-Collins Band, which released two albums between 1980 and 1983. In an effort to avoid the charge of being a ‘reborn” Lynyrd Skynyrd, they chose a woman, Dale Krantz, as lead vocalist. Rossington and Collins eventually had a falling out over the affections of Dale Krantz, whom Rossington married.
In 1987, Lynyrd Skynyrd reunited for a full-scale tour with five major members of the pre-crash band: crash survivors Gary Rossington, Billy Powell, Leon Wilkeson and Artimus Pyle, along with guitarist Ed King, who had left the band two years before the crash. Ronnie Van Zant's younger brother, Johnny Van Zandt, took over as the new lead singer and primary songwriter The reconstituted Lynyrd Skynyrd has since gone through a large number of lineup changes and continues to record and tour today. One by one, the members of the pre-crash band have left, been forced out, or have died.
In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked the group No. 95 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of all time. On March 13, 2006, Lynyrd Skynyrd was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In October 2008, Lynyrd Skynyrd's song “Freebird” was named the 3rd greatest guitar solo of all time by Guitar World.
Last month, they released a new studio album, Last of a Dying Breed.