1977 – Several members of Lynyrd Skynyrd die in a plane crash

A total of 24 passengers and 6 crew were aboard the Convair CV-300 that crashed on the evening of October 20, 1977 after running out of fuel near Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Six people died: the pilot Walter McCreary and co-pilot William Gray, along with three members of Lynyrd Skynyrd, lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist/vocalist Steve Gaines, backing vocalist Cassie Gaines (Steve’s older sister) and the assistant road manager of the band Dean Kilpatrick.

The band did not continue to tour after the crash, only reforming with a substantial changeover in membership some ten years later. They left a legacy of two of the best known songs in the world: “Sweet Home Alabama” and “Freebird”.

Referenced in:

Ronnie and Neil — Drive-By Truckers
Play It All Night Long — Warren Zevon
(He’ll Never Be An) Ol’ Man River — This Is Serious Mum

1974 – Lynyrd Skynyrd release “Sweet Home Alabama”

It’s not clear how much real malice they bore him, but Lynyrd Skynyrd certainly seemed pissed with Neil Young when they released “Sweet Home Alabama” in 1974, singling out his songs “A Southern Man” and “Alabama” for particular scorn. Mind you, the lyrics also state that Watergate doesn’t bother them, which would have made them about the only people in America it didn’t bother at that point. (Band members have repeatedly claimed that the lyrics were misunderstood.)

“Sweet Home Alabama” reached number 8 on the American charts, becoming Skynyrd’s first (and only) hit. It eventually sold Platinum, and has been used on so many film soundtracks that it is now more or less impossible that you haven’t heard it. In a move that would probably have annoyed the members of Lynyrd Skynyrd (were they still alive), the state of Alabama now uses those three words on its number plates.

Referenced in:

All Summer Long — Kid Rock
Ronnie and Neil — Drive-By Truckers
Play It All Night Long — Warren Zevon