LEGENDARY guitarist Gary Rossington suffered decades of health issues before his tragic death.
The longest surviving Lynyrd Skynyrd member passed away at 71 on Sunday following a battle with heart problems, and drug abuse related to a devastating plane crash.
GettyLegendary guitarist for Lynyrd Skynyrd Gary Rossington suffered decades of health issues before his death[/caption]
The band announced his death on Sunday, but did not provide a cause of death.
The tragic announcement came less than two years after he had to stop touring due to a critical health issue and emergency heart surgery.
On July 23, 2021, the band announced that Rossington was recovering from a heart procedure.
“After this past year, the country being shut down and everything we have all been thru, The Rossington’s encouraged the band to go perform in his absence,” the band wrote in a now heartbreaking statement.
“He wants everyone to know he is doing good and expects a full recovery.
“We wish Gary a speedy recovery and we will see the Skynyrd Nation very soon!”
While celebrated for being an incredible musician and songwriter, Rossington went down in history for surviving a plane crash that killed four of his bandmates, including frontman Ronnie Van Zant.
It was 1977 and the band was leaving South Carolina to head to a show in Louisiana.
The plane ran out of fuel, prompting the pilots to attempt a crash landing.
The devastating crash left Rossington with two broken legs, arms, ankles, and a shattered pelvis.
Lynyrd Skynyrd had just released their fifth record, and were celebrating great success when the accident occurred.
However, the traumatic incident led to a 10-year hiatus as surviving members grappled with the deaths of their beloved friends.
“One day we had everything, the next day there was nothing. We were on top of the world, and we were thrown down,” Rossington told People in 1980.
The mourning guitarist recovered from his injuries, but battled serious drug addiction caused in part by his painkillers.
In 1987, Rossington reunited with the surviving band for a full tour and would continue to play with them until his death.
For decades later, he would go on to face serious health battles.
In 2003, the Free Bird legend had to get quintuple bypass surgery and had a critical heart attack in 2015 which led to getting a pacemaker.
In 2019, the band postponed several tour dates while a heart valve was repaired in what was deemed their final tour.
“Fortunately for us, people still want to hear and see us, and it’s just rolled on,” bandmate Johnny Van Zant told USA TODAY in 2019.
“We started this because of Gary’s health problems. He has a bad heart, and we wanted to let people know that ‘Hey, our time is coming to an end.’
“We wanted to do it right and I think so far we have.
“So we’re going to keep busy probably for another year and then see what happens next year, as long as Gary’s health is OK.”
The band went on to take a hiatus during the Covid-19 pandemic, but returned to the stage in 2021.