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.