Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Smell of Death Surrounds You

Friend of OPC Rob points out via email that with the death of piano-tickler Billy Powell this week, Lynyrd Skynyrd has edged ever-closer to being a band that has lost all its members, a la the Jimi Hendrix Experience. There are a couple of key Skynyrd hands who are still hanging on, so they haven't been completely wiped out, but what's remarkable about Skynyrd is that so many of its members died so young.

Ed King, the former Strawberry Alarm Clock guitarist who co-wrote "Sweet Home Alabama," is still with us, as is drummer Artimus Pyle and guitarist Gary Rossington, whose brand-new car, whiskey bottle and oak tree occasioned the opening lines of "That Smell." On the other hand:

* Ronnie Van Zant, singer and songwriter, died at age 29 in the infamous Mississippi plane crash.

* Allen Collins, guitarist and songwriter, was paralyzed from the waist down in a car crash at age 34, and died at 37 after contracting pneumonia. His wife had died earlier in childbirth. His girlfriend died in the car wreck that paralyzed him.

* Leon Wilkeson, bassist, died in 2001 at the age of 49. He had been declared dead at the site of the plane crash, but he got better.

* Steve Gaines, guitarist, also died in the 1977 plane crash at 28.

* Billy Powell, keyboardist, died on Wednesday at the age of 56.

I'm leaving out Cassie Gaines, Steve's sister, who was a backup singer and died in the plane crash as well, but was never really an official member. Ed King, by the way, had left the band by then, so he wasn't on the fateful plane. Even with a couple of suriving members, though, it's pretty clear that God had it out for Lynyrd Skynyrd. Especially Allen Collins.


Kinky Paprika said...

Skynyrd's original drummer, Bob Burns (who played on the first two albums, incl. "Sweet Home Alabama") is still with us as well.
He left the band in '74 or '75 and never rejoined.

It is my tenuous understanding that the reunited, post-1987 Skynyrd has had kind of a revolving door of membership.
So on a strictly literal level, there are former Skynyrd members all over the place.
It's just the Seventies-era band that is disappearing.

Personally, I hope Gary Rossington lives (comfortably) to be 95.

T. Nawrocki said...

I should have worked in there somewhere that Ronnie Van Zant's widow allowed the reunited members to use the name Lynyrd Skynyrd as long as there were still at least two pre-crash members in the band. After Leon Wilkeson died, though, they kind of forgot about that for practical reasons.

Rob said...

I could be wrong about this, but if I remember right, NONE of the Allman Brothers have died since 1973. Can that be correct?

it's weird because it seems like they were the band cursed to have all their members die young, but once Skynyrd came along, they did all the Allmans' dying for them. Heck, even Gregg's still around!

Gavin said...

Depends on whether you count Lamar Williams, who took over bass after Berry Oakley died--he died of lung cancer (possibly from Agent Orange exposure) in 1981.

Rob said...

I think the Allmans might be the most bizarrely under-dead band ever. Considering how many of them there are and all their ramblin', you'd think they'd have at least a decent dead-keyboardist tradition going by now.

Kinky Paprika said...

Three of the Allmans' bassists have died: Berry Oakley, Lamar Williams and Allen Woody (the last two after leaving the band.)