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Five Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Song “Free Bird”

It is probably the most iconic and requested rock song of all time – and you know secretly that you love it. Every time you watch Forrest Gump on TNT, your heart races a little bit when Jenny’s gold platform slips from the ledge and that guitar solo rips and then fades. You know the lyrics, the melody and even the crescendos but do you know the back story of the song, “Free Bird?” Check out the top five things you probably didn’t know about this legendary song.

“Free Bird” Almost Didn’t Make the Cut

The band’s record company, MCA Records, wanted to leave the song off the band’s first album Lynyrd Skynyrd with the subtitle “Pronounced Leh-nerd Skin-nerd.” They thought the song was too long and radio stations wouldn’t play it. Even the band thought it wasn’t going to be a hit but it rose to #19 on Billboard’s Top 100.

Inspired by True Events

A fight between guitarist Allen Collins’ then-girlfriend, and later wife, Kathy, inspired the song’s first verse “If I leave here tomorrow, would you still remember me?”

Over Two Years in the Making

It took Collins two years to write the music for the piece but it was completed long before the lyrics were added. One night, lead singer Ronnie Van Zant became inspired and had Collins and Gary Rossington play the chords over and over until he wrote the lyrics.  Rossington told Blender magazine, “After a few months, we were sitting around, and he asked Allen to play those chords again. After about 20 minutes, Ronnie started singing, ‘If I leave here tomorrow,’ and it fit great. It wasn’t anything heavy, just a love song about leavin’ town, time to move on. Al put the organ on the front, which was a very good idea. He also helped me get the sound of the delayed slide guitar that I play – it’s actually me playing the same thing twice, recording one on top of the other, so it sounds kind of slurry, echoey. “The final cut of the song was recorded in 1973.

This One Goes Out To…

“Free Bird” has been used at graduation ceremonies, as an anthem to breakups and even at funerals but Johnny Van Zant quoted in a CD/DVD commentary, “Of course at the end it was dedicated to Duane Allman from the band Allman Brothers because it goes into the guitar part. If you can get through that one you’ve had a good night at a Skynyrd show.”

“Free Bird” Sans Vocals

For a while, Johnny Van Zant, brother to former frontman Ronnie Van Zant, wouldn’t sing the lyrics to “Free Bird” and the closing of the show was performed as an instrumental.

See Lynyrd Skynyrd live at the Ford Center with special guest Eric Paslay on August 1st 2013 – brought to you by sponsors: Dale’s Harley Davidson and Bobby Wilson Furniture! General tickets are available at and at the Ford Center ticket office.

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