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Lynyrd Skynyrd's Gary Rossington shares the story behind Free Bird

(Image credit: Michael Putland/Getty Images)

In this excerpt from the GW archive - the February/March 2005 issue of Guitar World Acoustic, to be exact - Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist Gary Rossington shares the story behind the band's iconic song, Free Bird.

“Ronnie [Van Zant, Skynyrd vocalist] didn’t like it in the beginning. He complained that the opening chord progression was too complicated, and he couldn't 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, and 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.”