Gary Rossington, Lynyrd Skynyrd's last surviving original member, has died aged 71.
The co-founding member of the legendary Florida rock band, who had cheated death a number of times in past, passed away on Sunday (05.03.23).
The group announced in a Facebook statement: "It is with our deepest sympathy and sadness that we have to advise, that we lost our brother, friend, family member, songwriter and guitarist, Gary Rossington, today.
"Gary is now with his Skynyrd brothers and family in heaven and playing it pretty, like he always does.
"Please keep Dale, Mary, Annie and the entire Rossington family in your prayers and respect the family's privacy at this difficult time."
Gary was fortunate to survive a car accident in 1976, which saw him drive his Ford Torino into a tree.
In 1977, a plane crash killed the band's singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines, and backing vocalist Cassie Gaines, however, Gary survived with two broken arms, a broken leg, and a punctured stomach and liver.
He also battled with drug and alcohol addictions and heart-related issues.
In 2019, the lead and rhythm guitarist underwent emergency heart surgery and was forced to skip the band's US shows.
A statement read at the time: "Our thoughts and prayers are with Gary Rossington as he recovers from emergency heart surgery. Gary is home resting and recovering with his family at home. He wants everyone to know he is doing good and expects a full recovery.
"After this past year, the country being shut down and everything we have all been thru, The Rossingtons encouraged the band to go perform in his absence. Music is a powerful healer! We all felt playing the shows and bringing the music to y’all was a better option than canceling the performances.
"We wish Gary a speedy recovery and we will see the Skynyrd Nation very soon!
"Please do us a favour and say some prayers for the Rossington family and if you would like to leave him a (positive) message please do! He will look forward to reading them! (sic)."
Gary gave up his baseball dreams to pursue music after being inspired The Rolling Stones.
The band came about after He and his bandmates Ronnie and Bob Burns met while playing on rival Jacksonville baseball teams.
They would jam together and were later joined by guitarist Allen Collins and bassist Larry Junstrom. They went through several band name changes before arriving at Lynyrd Skynyrd, the same name as Gary's high school sports coach and the character in the novelty tune 'Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh'.
The group has released 14 studio albums, the last being 2012's 'Last of a Dyin' Breed' and was Number 1 in our Rock 2000 countdown for 2022 with 'Simple Man'.