Music keeps tragedy from sinking Lynyrd Skynyrd - East Valley Tribune: Get Out

Music keeps tragedy from sinking Lynyrd Skynyrd

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Posted: Thursday, August 31, 2006 7:02 am | Updated: 4:43 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Having suffered through as much heartache, tragedy and internal turmoil as just about any band in rock history, it seems somehow fitting that getting into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was a struggle for Lynyrd Skynyrd.

In fact, the group was nominated for seven years before finally getting into the Hall earlier this year. Still, guitarist Rickey Medlocke said the band members are grateful for the recognition.

“You know, after year after year after year of being nominated, we kind of got to the point where we were just like ‘Oh well.’ We kind of gave up on it,” he says. “Then all of a sudden we found out we got the nod that it was happening, and the band couldn’t be happier. It was long overdue, and now it’s finally happened. Everybody’s very proud of it, and we’re happy with that.”

While Lynyrd Skynyrd continues to record and tour, the election into the Hall undoubtedly was earned largely on the strength of the band’s accomplishments up until 1977, when albums such as “Second Helping” (1974), “Nuthin’ Fancy” (1975) and “Street Survivors” helped shape the Southern rock sound.

The release of “Street Survivors,” of course, came just before the October 1977 plane crash that claimed the lives of Ronnie Van Zant (the group’s singer and a gifted songwriter), guitarist Steve Gaines and his sister, backing vocalist Cassie Gaines.

At the time, the Jacksonville, Fla., band was on the cusp of a major commercial breakthrough. After years of nonstop touring, the group had built a strong following, and “Street Survivors” was the group’s best effort.

The surviving band members all suffered significant injuries in the plane crash, not to mention considerable emotional damage.

A new version of Skynyrd emerged in 1987, with Johnny Van Zant (Ronnie’s younger brother) on vocals. But troubled times did not elude the group.

Next came several acrimonious splits with various band members. In 2001, during the making of the band’s most recent CD, “Vicious Cycle,” bassist Leon Wilkeson died.

“You have people ask us how you get through all the stuff that Skynyrd’s been through,” says Van Zant. “And I think it’s the music, it really is. I’ve never met a person who doesn’t like music, and we may vary in what styles we like, but everybody likes some form of music. And we have fans that go ‘This song helped us through this and that.’ The music helps us through it, too. It’s a great healer.”

While Medlocke says the group is writing new music, the immediate future for the band features more touring. And fans can expect a few surprises in the live set.

Says the guitarist: “(We’re) playing some things we haven’t played in a while.”

If you go Who: Lynyrd Skynyrd When: 8 p.m. today Where: Dodge Theatre, 400 W. Washington St., Phoenix Cost: $32-$80 Information: (602) 379-2888 or

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