Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Gary Rossington Says He’s Had Heart Attacks Onstage
Lynyrd Skynyrd co-founder Gary Rossington's health issues have worsened to the point that he's reportedly taking a "battery of nitroglycerin pills to stay alive."
The guitarist told the Tampa Bay Times that doctors have been urging him to get off the road for 15 years. Over that time, he's had more than one widely reported heart attack, but that doesn't tell the whole story. "I’ve had heart attacks onstage a lot," he confirmed.
His apparently worsening condition led directly to the announcement of the Last of the Street Survivors Farewell Tour, which begins tonight in West Palm Beach, Fla. "That's why I was calling it a farewell tour: I don't know if I'll be here," Rossington added. "I don't want to just say, 'Well, we're never going to end,' because I don't want to die and then it end that way – which is a heavy thing to talk about, but I have to."
If I Leave Here Tomorrow, a new documentary about Lynyrd Skynyrd, finds Rossington visiting a plot inside the same Jacksonville, Fla., cemetery where the band's late singer Ronnie Van Zant is buried. Rossington eventually became the lone original member left in the wake of Lynyrd Skynyrd's tragic 1977 plane crash.
Ironically, Rossington said the band had found a new lease on life back then. "We were refreshed and ready to go," he said. "Ronnie had quit drinking, was working out, and me and [original guitarist] Allen [Collins] were calming down on drinking. We were growing up and getting a little older in our mid-twenties. You kind of realize you got something going. I think it'd have been great if we could have kept going and writing."
Lynyrd Skynyrd reunited in 1987, originally with fellow early members Ed King, Billy Powell and Leon Wilkeson, along with Artimus Pyle – Lynyrd Skynyrd's drummer at the time of the plane crash. Today, Gary Rossington is all that remains. Johnny Van Zant took over for his brother Ronnie; he's now been singing for Lynyrd Skynyrd longer than his older brother was alive. Guitarist Rickey Medlocke returned in 1996, after a brief earlier stint with the group back in the '70s. In all, six of Lynyrd Skynyrd's nine Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees are now dead.
You Think You Know Lynyrd Skynyrd?