On October 20, 1977, the band’s chartered plane crashed in a wooded area in the State of Mississippi. The crash killed lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines, backup singer Cassie Gaines, and assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick. Both the pilot and co pilot were also killed. Only three days earlier, Lynyrd Skynyrd had released their newest album entitled Street Survivors. The cover that featured Ronnie Van Zant and Steve Gaines on fire was quickly pulled from the shelves of record stores.
The Street Survivors album had seemed to be a transitional album for the band as the addition of guitarist and songwriter Steve Gaines helped change the sound of the group. Gaines’ skills as a songwriter presented the band with songs that fused many different elements of rock and roll and blues with a very deep understanding of lyricism and melody. Simply said, Gaines wrote great songs and played great guitar. There’s no argument that the band was on the verge of stardom beyond what they had already achieved.
The remaining members of the band and Ronnie Van Zant’s younger Johnny, formed for a reunion show in 1987. After the reunion show, the remaining members along with Johnny Van Zant decided to continue on utilizing the original name Lynyrd Skynyrd. Although legal issues and concepts of respect, and exploitation all threatened to cancel the newly formed Lynyrd Skynyrd, the band continued on. In the year 2016, Lynyrd Skynyrd continues to tour. The only remaining member from the original 1970’s Lynyrd Skynyrd band is Gary Rossington.
The top 10 Lynyrd Skynyrd songs list was at times difficult to write because of my personal memories of the band. I saw the band in 1977 with Ted Nugent. Lynyrd Skynyrd was one of the most loved bands of the 1970’s and it was very difficult to deal with their loss as a 16 year old fanatic fan. So in tribute to one of the greatest musical acts, here is my list of ten of the best Lynyrd Skynyrd songs the band ever recorded. I continue to listen to the old band all the time, Picking a best of list was more of a tribute than anything else because in the end, every Lynyrd Skynyrd song was great.
# 10 – I Never Dreamed
It is fitting to start of this list with one of the best Lynyrd Skynyrd songs from the last great Lynyrd Skynyrd album, Street Survivors. The transitional sound that was developing within the band was very evident on the song “I Never Dreamed.” The rolling modern guitar riffs at the beginning of the song intermixed with some vintage slide guitar playing made for a fresh sound that had never been heard before. Ronnie Van Zant’s smooth soulful southern vocal would never again be repeated by any other singer. No one could sing like Ronnie Van Zant. There was an honesty in his voice that everyone fell in love with. The song was written by Steve Gaines and Ronnie Van Zant. It appeared as the second track on side two of the record.The Street Survivors album contained only eight tracks, but each song was unbelievably great.
# 9 – Tuesday’s Gone
Not all Lynyrd Skynyrd songs were raucous barn burners. The band recorded some beautiful rock ballads throughout their career. The song “Tuesday’s Gone,” was released on the first Lynyrd Skynyrd album, Pronounced Leh-nerd Skin-nerd. The song has been utilized in many movies and television shows such as Happy Gilmore, My Name is Earl, One Tree Hill and most notably in the great seventies culture film Dazed and Confused which garnished its title from the classic Led Zeppelin track. The song was also covered by the band Metallica. “Tuesday’s Gone,” is easily one of everyone’s favorite Lynyrd Skynyrd songs.
# 8 – Call Me The Breeze
One of the greatest Lynyrd Skynyrd songs off all time was actually written by J.J. Cale. The song first appeared on their second album Second Helping which was released in 1974. Southern rock had a banner year in 1974. The Marshall Tucker Band released two huge albums that year entitled,Where We All Belong and A New Life. The Charlie Daniels Band also released two albums labeled Way Done Yonder and Fire on the Mountain. The Allman Brothers had just released Brothers and Sisters in late 1973 and The Outlaws were in the studio recording their debut album which would be released in 1975.
The song “Call Me The Breeze,” appeared again on their live album One More From The Road which was released in 1976. The song featured those iconic Lynyrd Skynyrd guitar riffs at the opening of the song. Ronnie Van Zant’s smooth bluesy vocal would soon follow before giving way to some legendary southern rock guitar solos. In the nineteen seventies,”Call Me the Breeze,” defined the sound of Lynyrd Skynyrd.
# 7 – You Got That Right
The song “You Got That Right,” is the second song to appear on the top 10 Lynyrd Skynyrd songs list from the Street Survivors album. The song opened side two of the record. It was one of the rare times on vinyl that Ronny Van Zant shared the lead vocals with another singer. Steve Gaines who was the newest member of the band also sang lead vocals on the song. The song was co-written by Steve Gaines and Ronny Van Zant. It was released as a single and reached No. 69 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1976.
# 6 – Red White and Blue
The Lynyrd Skynyrd song “Red White and Blue,” is the only song to appear on the top 10 Lynyrd Skynyrd songs list that was not written or recorded by the original Lynyrd Skynyrd band. The song was released on the 2003 Vicious Cycle album. The song’s patriotic theme was written as a response to the September 11th 2001 attacks. The song is the most requested Lynyrd Skynyrd song on radio and in the clubs not written by the original band.
# 5 – Gimme Three Steps
Another classic Lynyrd Skynyrd song with one of those iconic Lynyrd Skynyrd openings. The song “Gimme Three Steps,” was released in 1973 on Lynyrd Skynyrd’s debut album, Pronounced Leh-nerd Skin-nerd. The song was also released as a single. It was one of the most popular songs the band played in concert. Ronny Van Zant wrote the lyrics after a confrontation he had in a bar in Jacksonville, Florida. The guitar interplay between Gary Rossington and Allen Collins is one of the hallmarks of the Lynyrd Skynyrd original sound. Its evident right away on Lynyrd Skynyrd’s first record.
# 4 – Simple Man
In all the gigs I have done as a musician, “Simple Man,” was always the most requested song to be played besides” Free Bird.” The song was released on their debut album, Pronounced Leh-nerd Skin-nerd. It was placed as the last song on side A of the album. Simple Man was written by Gary Rossington and Ronny Van Zant. It is Lynyrd Skynyrd’s third biggest selling single after “Sweet Home Alabama,” and “Free Bird.” “Simple Man,” is one of the most heartfelt Lynyrd Skynyrd songs ever released by the band. Everyone loves songs written about their mothers, and “Simple Man,” was one of the best ever written.
# 3 – Sweet Home Alabama
One of the most popular songs in the band’s history, “Sweet Home Alabama,” was released on their sophomore album Second Helping. The song was written by Ed King, Gary Rossington, and Ronnie Van Zant. “Sweet Home Alabama,” was released as a single in 1974. The song reached No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 music charts in 1974. When looking back at the music charts of 1974, its amazing to see how many classic rock songs were released that year. Elton John’s Bennie and the Jets, Paul McCartney’s “Band on the Run,” Steve Miller’s “The Joker,” Steely Dan’s “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number,” and so many more.
Out of all the Lynyrd Skynyrd songs released during the band’s career, “Sweet Home Alabama,” has appeared in more films, commercials and television shows than any other Lynyrd Skynyrd songs. Its hard not to talk about the band Lynyrd Skynyrd without mention of the classic song “Sweet Home Alabama.”
# 2 – That Smell
Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “That Smell,” was perhaps the most haunting song the band ever released. As the song gained airplay in the wake of the band’s plane crash in October of 1977, fans could not stop but think of the loss of Ronnie, Steve, and Cassie. The song’s thematic explorations of drug and alcohol abuse defined a period of rock and roll stardom that overwhelmed many musicians in the nineteen seventies, Steve Gaines’ guitar licks and chord changes presented in the song defined the most mature music ever recorded by Lynyrd Skynyrd. Ronnie’s deep resonating personal lyrics and chilling vocal performance were perhaps the best of his career. It still hurts to listen to this song, but at the same time, it was one of the best Lynyrd Skynyrd Songs ever written.
# 1 – Free Bird
Without a doubt, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird,” was not only Lynyrd Skynyrd’ greatest song, but it is also one of the greatest rock and roll recordings in classic rock history. Every band has their career defining moment. The song was originally released as a studio version on their first album Pronounced Leh-nerd Skin-nerd. While the studio version is certainly an enjoyable listen, it was the live version released on “One More From the Road,” that stands as the definite version. The song was written by Alan Collins and Ronnie Van Zant. The live version was released as a single in 1977 and hit No. 38 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Anyone who has ever played in a bar band would testify to the numerous times they heard the call for “Free Bird,” while performing. When I saw the original Lynyrd Skynyrd band in 1977, the band performed “Free Bird,” as their closing number. It was perhaps the greatest moment I have ever experienced while seeing a band perform a song in concert. Watching Ronnie walk to the center of the stage to start the vocal after the beautiful piano introduction, was completely mesmerizing. As the song progressed into the extended jam, they lit up the audience with extremely bright lights that seemed to carry us all away to some sort rock and roll heaven. That’s what Lynyrd Skynyrd’ did, that’s how they performed, and that’s how they will be remembered.
Top 10 Lynyrd Skynyrd Songs
Written by Brian Kachejian