Guitar icons pay tribute to Lynyrd Skynyrd legend Gary Rossington, who has died aged 71

Guitarist Gary Rossington, founding member of Lynyrd Skynyrd, performs onstage during Day 2 of the Stagecoach Music Festival on April 27, 2019 in Indio, California
Gary Rossington onstage with Lynyrd Skynyrd at the Stagecoach Music Festival, California in 2019 (Image credit: Scott Dudelson/Getty Images for Stagecoach)

The music world has been paying tribute to Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist Gary Rossington, who passed away on 5 March at the age of 71.

A founder member, Rossington was the last of the classic Skynyrd guitar lineup of Allen Collins, Ed King and later, Stevie Gaines. He was the only member to appear on all of the legendary southern rock band's albums and survived the devastating 1977 plane crash that claimed the lives of six people, including Gaines, his older sister and backing vocalist Cassie Gaines and Skynyrd frontman Ronnie Van Zandt.

“After the plane crash it was tough for me. It was horrible," Rossington reflected with us back in 2017. "It was hard to play again, I didn’t want to do it anymore. I met Alan Price from the Animals in Barbados a few weeks later and he made me start again, God bless him. It was a tough time to get through, it just wasn’t fun to play for a while, but it turned around after a while and I loved it again."

Rossington was acutely aware of his responsibility in carrying the band's legacy and celebrating it with fans old and new, even though he battled his own health issues in recent years – including a heart attack in 2015 and emergency heart surgery in 2021. 

“We love to tour and we do it to keep the music out there,"Rossington added in the same interview. "It’s great to share the songs and stories of Ronnie Van Zant, Allen Collins, Steve Gaines and all of the people we’ve lost from the band. I just keep carrying the name Skynyrd. I know that if I had died early on I would have wanted those guys to have kept the dream that we had going.”

The influence of Rossington's work with Lynyrd Skynyrd is difficult to overestimate and has been a huge source of inspiration for huge legacy rock acts today. 

"RIP Brother Gary," wrote Metallica's James Hetfield on Instagram. "Thank you for bringing me so much joy with your guitar playing and songwriting in one of my all-time favourite bands, Lynyrd Skynyrd."

Joe Bonamassa added to the tributes, reflecting on a dark few days that has seen the loss of Rossington, Bonamassa band bassist and hugely respected session man Michael Rhodes, as well as guitarist David Lindley.  

"This has been the worst week in my memory. Literally every day another legend or friend has passed away. Rest in Peace Gary. Thank you for being so nice to me over the years.

Rob Laing
Guitars Editor, MusicRadar

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before MusicRadar I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar in the UK. When I'm not rejigging pedalboards I'm usually thinking about rejigging pedalboards.