Lynyrd Skynyrd's Gary Rossington Shares the Story Behind "Free Bird"
Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd (1973)
“Ronnie [Van Zant, Skynyrd vocalist] didn’t like it in the beginning. He complained that the opening chord progression was too complicated, and he could find a melody for it. Every once in a while we’d bring it up again, and he’d just tell us to forget about it.
"Then one day we were at rehearsal and Allen [Collins, guitarist] started playing the chord progression, and Ronnie said, ‘That’s pretty.’ And he wrote the lyrics in three or four minutes — the whole damn thing!
"We started playing ‘Free Bird’ in clubs, an initially it was just a slow ballad.
"Then Ronnie said, ‘Why don’t you do something at the end of that so that I can take a break for a few minutes.’ So I came up with the ending chord progression and Allen played over them, then I soloed and then he soloed … It all evolved out of a single jam we had one night.”
From the GW archive: This story originally appeared in the February/March 2005 issue of Guitar World Acoustic.