Rick Diamond / LSBB14 / Getty Images for Blackbird Productions
Forged upon a dusty Jacksonville baseball diamond in 1964, we know how we want Lynyrd Skynyrd to be remembered; a finely tuned machine comprised of some of the finest musicians to ever draw breath, who set out to create a fast and furious brand of rock and roll that pulled no punches and always told the truth of their experiences in the world and held fast to that, ultimately taking their rightful place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The thing is, though, that when you’ve achieved what Lynyrd Skynyrd have achieved you’re in a position that many others would kill for: one that allows you to be the master of your own destiny, able to decide for yourself what you want to be remembered for and making it your life’s work to see to it that that’s what’s left when everything is said and done.
After 30 years at the helm of Southern rock’s most loved band, singer Johnny Van Zant’s had plenty of time to do just that. In a 2009 interview with The 9513, Van Zant was asked by Ken Morton, Jr. what he hoped Lynyrd Skynyrd’s legacy would be in 35 years. His response couldn’t have been more perfect:
“I hope that it is for a band that wrote songs for the real people. A band that survived a lot – a lot of stuff that we all had to endure to keep the music alive. I always say that the music is a lot bigger than us.
So 35 years from now when we’re all checked out of here, or at least most of us will be, the music will still live on. I think it’s a cool thing that my brother, a simple guy from the west side of Jacksonville, hit Bob Burns in the head with a baseball and that started Lynyrd Skynyrd. It’s pretty amazing all the accomplishments that the band has had.”
Bands, like people, change as time goes by. Motives, aspirations – all of this is subject to change and sadly, when it comes to the things that really matter, too many bands fall by the wayside and what’s left at the end looks nothing like what they started with. Not Lynyrd Skynyrd – not by a long shot.
A band whose legacy rests on fearlessly bringing honest music to the masses and never forgetting what drew them together a lifetime ago, everything we know about Lynyrd Skynyrd tells us that Johnny Van Zant will get his wish and generations from now will find the world celebrating the only thing that’s ever mattered: the music.