Throwback Thursday: “Free Bird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd

Lizzy Partsch, Staff Writer

Known for classic hits like “Sweet Home Alabama,” “Free Bird,” “Simple Man,” and popularizing the southern rock genre, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird” is our next Throwback Thursday.

Lynyrd Skynryd was formed in 1964 by teenagers Ronnie Van Zant, Bob Burns, Allen Collins, Gary Rossington, and Larry Junstorm. Throughout the ’60s they had various band names from My Backyard, to The Noble Fiveto One Percentbefore eventually settling on Lynyrd Skynryd, which was based on their high school gym teacher, Leonard Skinnerd, who contanstly nagged them about their long hair.

During the 1970s, their fame was on the rise and were soon one of the most popular bands in Jacksonville.

In 1973, “Free Bird” was released, one of their most popular and highly requested songs.

Written by Allen Collins and Ronnie Van Zant, the song is a love song about a man who leaves his girlfriend to explore the world and move ahead of what he already has.

The opening lines of the song, “If I leave here tomorrow, would you still remember me?” was actually a question Allen Collin’s girlfriend asked him in a fight they were having.

As well as other lyrics like, “For I must be traveling on now, ‘Cause there’s too many places I’ve got to see” show how despite his love for his girlfriend, he has to venture on and discover more of his life.

Although the song was released in 1973, the song was actually written two years before that, but there was apparently too many chords to make melody according to Ronnie Van Zant. It was also rejected by several studio companies because it was claimed to be too long.

The song was dedicated in memory of Duana Allman and Berry Oakley. Ronnie even commented how they are both free birds at one of their performances.

The song also snatched the No. 3 spot on Guitar World’s “100 Greatest Guitar Solos” and was even included in the Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Songs of All Time,” at No. 193.

Sadly, at the peak of their fame, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s plane crashed in 1977 killing almost half of the band, including lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines and many others.

The band still continues to go on tour, but plays “Free Bird” mostly as an instrumental, until 1989 when the audience insisted Johnnie Van Zant sing it.

In the words of Ronnie Van Zant, “To me there’s nothing freer than a bird you know, just flying wherever he want’s to go. And I don’t know, that’s what this country is all about, being free. I think that everyone wants to be a free bird.”

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