Today is a sad day in music history, as it marks the anniversary of one of the biggest disasters in the history of rock. On October 20, 1977, the members of Lynyrd Skynyrd chartered a plane to take them from Greenville, South Carolina to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. In the middle of the flight, the tiny Convair 240 ran out of fuel, and though the pilot attempted an emergency landing, the plane crashed in a forest in Gillsburg, Mississippi. The crash killed the two pilots, Skynyrd assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick and band members Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines and Cassie Gaines. The rest of the passengers suffered injuries as well, and the group disbanded shortly after the accident.
A decade later, the band came back with a number of replacement members (including singer Johnny Van Zant, younger brother of Ronnie). Though the band has seen a revolving door of members since then, the soul of Lynyrd Skynyrd remains in tact. The band recently released their first studio album in six years in God & Guns, and the band still tours today. Their influence is best felt in spiritual ally and friend Kid Rock, but their mix of swampy Southern blues, arena riffs and country charm has spread much, much wider.
The band's debut album contained a tune called "Free Bird" that not only grew into the group's signature track but also one of the definitive rock songs of the 1970s. It's an epic jam with tremendous solos and soul, and has become something of a "we're still here" anthem for the 21st century version of the band. Enjoy all 13 minutes of "Free Bird."