The man in the black hat gives a faint smile. His gaze sparkles under his long hair. He is not in a hurry. He has time. What are forty-five years when you have eternity ahead? And yet, he still waited for this moment with a certain impatience. And there it is! It happened !

On March 5, 2023, Gary Rossington left this earth at the age of seventy-one. He leaves behind his wife Dale, his daughters and his grandchildren. His family and friends. And also countless saddened and unhappy fans.
Obviously, everyone would have liked him to reach the milestone of eighty years. We all wish a long life to our heroes. But destiny decided otherwise.

No need to unroll the man's entire biography. All enthusiasts know it (as for the others, there is very little chance that they will read these lines).

We can simply say that Gary was a survivor until the end. Yes, he survived a lot.

Car accidents (including a shattering encounter with an oak tree that won the guitarist's Ford Torino by KO. This episode had moreover inspired Ronnie Van Zant to write the text of the song "That smell" with the famous phrase "oak tree, you're in my way" / "the oak tree, you are on my way").

The tragic plane crash of October 1977 which had inflicted on him multiple fractures and above all an enormous emotional shock when he had learned of Ronnie's death on his hospital bed (he had insisted that his mother tell him the truth ). Gary had always wondered why he had survived. But he also maintained that everything happens for a good reason and that without this accident, he would never have created the Rossington-Collins Band and therefore would never have met his wife Dale.

Countless operations to solve his heart problems. Gary was the all-round champion in triple, quadruple and quintuple bypasses. And even if the cause of his death has not yet been revealed, it is reasonable to think that a heart failure is the cause.

The grief caused by the death of his mother whom he adored. Drugs and alcohol. And above all more than fifty years of music, excess of all kinds, tours around the world and unbridled concerts.

He was the last founding member of Lynyrd Skynyrd, a mythical combo tragically entered into legend. He had lived the whole history of the group from the beginning and he had become its boss since the Reunion Tour of 1987.
More than a man, Gary was a real rocker (with all the excesses that entails). A veteran, a witness of the great era. A real historical monument. But the only story that matters, that of Rock'n'Roll.

But even more than a survivor, Gary Rossington was above all a musician.
Not a genius guitarist but an effective six-string handler. No need to drop ten thousand notes per second to have his name in the big book of Rock. A few inspired notes are enough. Gary often said that the most important notes were the ones you didn't play.

Thus, we owe him the timeless intro of "Simple man" and the three chords of "Sweet home Alabama" which he had run in rehearsal. On this subject, a clarification is necessary. Gary is credited on this title but he always resented Ed King for becoming "Mister Sweet Home" (rightly so since Ed composed the famous intro and solo of this Lynyrd Skynyrd hit in full) . Ed was probably inspired by these three chords played by Gary, but the band already had a tendency to use the formula "D-C-G".

Either way, Gary has forged an instantly recognizable personal style, which is the hallmark of the greats.
He knew his rock'n'roll like the back of his hand, solo ("Gimme three steps", "Call me the breeze") but also in rhythm (the unstoppable riffs of "Don't ask me no questions" or " What's your name." Needless to say, he was a big fan of Keith Richards?).
He also happily ventured into "honky tonk" territory ("Things goin' on").

But above all, he excelled in melodic solos ("White dove", "The seasons", Tuesday's gone", "Love don't always come easy" on the album "The last rebel"). And these melodious flights were Gary Rossington's trademark.
Emotional notes, warm saturation, extended sustain and springy string pulls.

This particular sound, Gary owed it to his Gibson Les Paul of 1959 which he had baptized Berniece (the first name of his beloved mother) and which he plugged into Peavey Mace amps.
He always maintained that he had never owned a better instrument.
In 1977 at the Criteria studio, he was devastated when he found his Berniece with the head broken and separated from the handle. A technician had repaired it with a special glue and two screws without altering the sound of the guitar. A few years ago, Gary loaned Berniece out for an exhibit at the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame. He was very proud that his guitar sat between those of Duane Allman and Eric Clapton.

The death of Gary Rossington signals the end of the great era of Southern rock and his death raises questions about the future of Lynyrd Skynyrd.
The question was asked if the group would continue to tour. Without its last founding member, would it lose its legitimacy and credibility?
The band eventually announced their intention to continue.
After many discussions with the band, the families of Ronnie Van Zant and Allen Collins, and Dale Rossington, the collective has reached unified support, and feel that continuing to perform live, and keeping the music alive, is in the best interest of the fans and everyone involved.
However, it should not be forgotten that Lynyrd Skynyrd remains a fabulous money-making machine. So, one thing is certain: financial interests must have weighed heavily in the balance and money led the way.

Now Gary Rossington doesn't care about any of that. He had a full life. He faced the blows of fate and enjoyed the good times. He often quoted Gregg Allman who said that if you live long enough, you will experience tragedies and triumphs. Gary has known both. He has been part of the extraordinary adventure of Lynyrd Skynyrd from the beginning by following a young visionary by the name of Ronnie Van Zant. He survived her but continued to honor her memory by getting the band back on the road. He made his guitar moan in the spotlight as much as he could.
And then he left.

The man in the black hat smiled frankly. The group he created more than fifty-three years ago is once again complete. One, two, three!
The chords of "Simple man" resonate in the cosmic vastness.
Gary has joined his friends!

Olivier « Simple man » Aubry
Translation : Y. Philippot-Degand

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