The Lynyrd Skynyrd saga is defined by the will to triumph over tragedy, and Gary Rossington is determined to have the last word.
The guitarist and songwriter has led Lynyrd Skynyrd back from the brink more than once. First, there were the car crashes of '76—including his own that inspired the hit "That Smell," a cautionary tale about the dangers of living fast. The following year, a plane crash took the lives of Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines and Cassie Gaines, derailing the band for a decade. And in 2003, the band postponed its mammoth 30th anniversary celebration when Rossington had to undergo emergency open-heart surgery.
As Lynyrd Skynyrd prepared its 13th studio album tragedy struck again. Original keyboardist Billy Powell passed away from cardiac arrest in January 2009, and bassist Ean Evans lost his battle with cancer in May. Again, the band rallied around Rossington—now the sole remaining founding member—and soldiered forward as a tribute to their fallen family members.
"We just kind of fell back in," explains Rossington. "We've been doing this a long time, so you just kind of do what you do. As you get older, you get a little more used to it. You know it's coming, and it's coming to you, too. I just thank God for every day and all the time I had with the guys that aren't with us anymore."
Rossington and his bandmates have just released God & Guns, a true-to-form album of new songs that celebrate freedom and the joys of a simple life. Longtime Skynyrd fans will be happy to hear that God & Guns is a fitting addition to the band's canon.
"We feel like we have to keep the standards high," says Rossington. "I wouldn't put this record out—I'd fight not to—if I didn't think it was good. We wanted to do the guys who aren't with us anymore proud, and keep the name proud, too."
Inviting new blood into Skynyrd's inner circle gave the band a fresh perspective on songwriting, instrumentation and production. Metal guitar virtuoso John 5, who Rossington praised as "one of the best guitar players I've ever played with," jumped into the mix, and new producer Bob Marlette manned the boards.
"We never really worked with producers that well—we always wanted to do it our way," admits Rossington. "But Bob Marlette came on and he's such a great guy; he figured out how to talk to us musically, and we became friends instantly. He had a lot of fresh ideas and ways to do things, and also wanted to capture the old sounds, too."
"We wanted to show the people that not only are we doing the old material, keeping the music going, but we still have some new tricks up our sleeves."
Preview the hard rocking "Still Unbroken" now, and grab God & Guns today!
Watch Lynyrd Skynyrd performing the classic "Gimme Three Steps" live at Knebworth in 1976.