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Lynyrd Skynyrd: Top 5 Classic Songs

Updated on August 18, 2015

Play Some Skynyrd


This is one of the more common phrases heard at concerts around the country. One of the most popular bands of the 1970s, Lynyrd Skynyrd is still quite popular as they tour, in spite of the early death of most of the band's members through a plane crash or other tragic methods. Many bands are popular for a short time, but few have real staying power. Skynyrd is one of the latter. Their classic tunes continue to be very popular nearly 40 years after they first burst onto the scene with their first album, Pronounced 'Lĕh-'nérd 'Skin-'nérd.

Skynyrd in 2008
Skynyrd in 2008 | Source

A Short History of Lynyrd Skynyrd

The origins of Lynyrd Skynyrd go back nearly 50 years to 1964, when a group of Jacksonville, Florida, teenagers started a band that was not known as Lynyrd Skynyrd. The band then took the name of their high school PE teacher, Leonard Skinner, who rigorously enforced rules against long hair. Their first album, Pronounced 'Lĕh-'nérd 'Skin-'nérd, was released in 1973 by MCA. Lynyrd Skynyrd's popularity rose after the album came out and they opened for The Who.

The band's second album, Second Helping followed in 1974, and the band put out three more albums before a plane crash killed lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines, and background vocalist Cassie Gaines in October 1977. The remaining members of the band stayed busy with music, and reunited for a reunion in 1987 with Ronny Van Zant's brother Johnny as the lead vocalist. The band has been playing together ever since, although guitarist Gary Rossington is the member left from the original album. While there have been some good songs from the reconstituted band, none have been as popular as some of the classic pre-crash era.

The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006 and named as no. 95 in Rolling Stone's list of 100 greatest artists of all time.

No. 5--Was I Right or Wrong

This song did not actually make it onto an album before the crash. In 1978, several songs that had not yet been published made it onto an album titled Skynyrd's First...and Last. Some of the songs, like "Was I Right or Wrong" were actually written before the band made it big.

"Was I Right or Wrong" has an eerie sound in which Van Zant questions some of his previous choices.

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No. 4--Sweet Home Alabama

This was actually the most popular single that the band ever had. "Sweet Home Alabama" peaked at number 8 on the Billboard charts in 1974. The song is still very popular, as Kid Rock used the guitar riffs on some of his recent work and Skynyrd still plays it at its shows.

The song was originally intended as a jab at Neil Young for his song "Southern Man". "Sweet Home Alabama" has a line that says, "I hope Neil Young will remember, a Southern man don't need him around anyhow."

No. 3--Simple Man

This is the first of three songs on this list that were originally featured on the band's debut album. This song lists the advice of a mother to her son to be a "simple kinda man."

The guitar intro and heavy driving bridge are notable in "Simple Man".

No. 2--Tuesday's Gone

"Tuesday's Gone," also a song from the 1973 debut album Pronounced 'Lĕh-'nérd 'Skin-'nérd,
is one of the most impressive examples of instrumentation from Skynyrd. The song has a very mellow pace with soothing guitars.

The bridge portion of the song, unlike most of Skynyrd's songs which include a guitar solo, is one of the songs that really showcased Billy Powell's keyboarding skills. Many bands, including Metallica, have covered the song, and "Tuesday's Gone" is prominent in the movie Happy Gilmore.

Free Bird Live in '75 from the BBC

No. 1--Free Bird

The listing of Free Bird as the number 1 song on any list of Lynyrd Skynyrd songs should come as no surprise. The guitar solo at the end of the song is iconic, and Guitar World named it as no. 3 on its all-time list of guitar solos. That's pretty impressive for any band.

Free Bird is one of a number of memorable songs from the band's debut album. The song starts in a very mellow mood and talks about a man leaving his woman. A slide guitar by Rossington is prominent in the song. After Van Zant finishes singing the lyrics at about the 5 minute mark of the nine minute, eighteen second masterpiece. The rest of the song is taken up by the solo mentioned above. The song peaked at no. 19 on Billboard and is now the grand finale at all Lynyrd Skynyrd concerts. The song remains a staple of classic rock radio stations to this day.


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