Ronnie Van Zant

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Ronnie Van Zant
RonnieVanZant.gif
Van Zant circa 1976
Background information
Birth nameRonald Wayne Van Zant
Born(1948-01-15)January 15, 1948
Jacksonville, Florida, U.S.
DiedOctober 20, 1977(1977-10-20) (aged 29)
Gillsburg, Mississippi, U.S.
Genres Southern rock, blues rock [1]
Occupation(s)Musician, songwriter,
InstrumentsVocals, guitar, piano, drums
Years active1964–1977
Associated acts Lynyrd Skynyrd

Ronald Wayne Van Zant (January 15, 1948 – October 20, 1977) was an American lead vocalist, singer, primary lyricist, and founding member of the Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd. He was the older brother of two other rock vocalists: current Lynyrd Skynyrd lead vocalist Johnny Van Zant, and Donnie Van Zant, the founder and vocalist of 38 Special. He was the father of Tammy Van Zant and Melody Van Zant. [1]

Southern rock is a subgenre of rock music and a genre of Americana. It developed in the Southern United States from rock and roll, country music, and blues, and is focused generally on electric guitar and vocals. Although the origin of the term Southern rock is unknown, "many people feel that these important contributors to the development of rock and roll have been minimized in rock's history."

Lynyrd Skynyrd American rock band

Lynyrd Skynyrd is an American rock band best known for popularizing the Southern rock genre during the 1970s with songs such as "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Free Bird". It formed in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1964 under the name My Backyard with original members Ronnie Van Zant (vocals), Gary Rossington (guitar), Allen Collins (guitar), Larry Junstrom and Bob Burns (drums). The band spent five years touring small venues under a variety of different names and with several lineup changes before finally deciding on "Lynyrd Skynyrd" in 1969. The band released their first album in 1973, having settled on a lineup that included bassist Leon Wilkeson and former Strawberry Alarm Clock guitarist Ed King. Burns would later be replaced by Artimus Pyle and King by Steve Gaines. Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines and backup singer Cassie Gaines were killed in an airplane crash on October 20, 1977, putting an abrupt end to the 1970s era of the band.

Johnny Van Zant American singer

Johnny Roy Van Zant is an American musician and the current lead vocalist of Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd. He is the younger brother of the late Lynyrd Skynyrd co-founder and former lead vocalist Ronnie Van Zant, and of the 38 Special founder Donnie Van Zant.

Contents

Early life

He was born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida, to Lacy Austin (1915–2004) and Marion Virginia (Hicks) Van Zant (1929–2000). Ronnie aspired to be many things before finding his love for music. Idolizing boxer Muhammad Ali, he considered a career in the ring, and while playing American Legion baseball dreamed of Minor League success. [2] Referring to a local NASCAR legend, he would say that he was going to be the most famous person to come out of Jacksonville since stock car champion Lee Roy Yarbrough.[ citation needed ]

Jacksonville, Florida Largest city in Florida

Jacksonville is the most populous city in Florida, the most populous city in the southeastern United States and the largest city by area in the contiguous United States. It is the seat of Duval County, with which the city government consolidated in 1968. Consolidation gave Jacksonville its great size and placed most of its metropolitan population within the city limits. As of 2017, Jacksonville's population was estimated to be 892,062. The Jacksonville metropolitan area has a population of 1,523,615 and is the fourth largest in Florida.

Boxing combat sport

Boxing is a combat sport in which two people, usually wearing protective gloves, throw punches at each other for a predetermined amount of time in a boxing ring.

Muhammad Ali American boxer, philanthropist and activist

Muhammad Ali was an American professional boxer, activist, and philanthropist. He is nicknamed "The Greatest" and is widely regarded as one of the most significant and celebrated sports figures of the 20th century and as one of the greatest boxers of all time.

Lynyrd Skynyrd

Van Zant formed a band called My Backyard [2] late in the summer of 1964 with friends and schoolmates Allen Collins (guitar), Gary Rossington (guitar), Larry Junstrom (bass), and Bob Burns (drums). The foursome went through several names before deciding on Lynyrd Skynyrd, a mock tribute to a gym teacher that all but Collins had at Robert E. Lee High School, Leonard Skinner, who disapproved of male students with long hair.

Allen Collins American musician and song writer

Larkin Allen Collins Jr. was one of the founding members and guitarists of Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, and co-wrote many of the band's songs with late frontman Ronnie Van Zant. He was born in Jacksonville, Florida.

Gary Rossington American musician and founderofLynyrd Skynyrd.

Gary Robert Rossington is an American musician best known as a founder of southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, in which he is the sole constant member. He plays lead and rhythm guitar. He was a founding member of the Rossington Collins Band along with former bandmate, Allen Collins.

Lawrence E. "Larry" Junstrom is an American bassist, best known for having been in rock band .38 Special from 1977 until 2014. He was also one of the founding members of the Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd.

The band's national exposure began in 1973 with the release of their debut album, (Pronounced 'Lĕh-'nérd 'Skin-'nérd) , which had a string of hits that included "I Ain't the One", "Tuesday's Gone", "Gimme Three Steps", "Simple Man," and what became their signature, "Free Bird", later dedicated to the late Duane Allman of The Allman Brothers Band.[ citation needed ]

<i>(Pronounced Lĕh-nérd Skin-nérd)</i> 1973 studio album by Lynyrd Skynyrd

Lynyrd Skynyrd is the debut album from American rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, released in 1973. The album features several of the band's most well-known songs, including "Gimme Three Steps," "Simple Man," "Tuesday's Gone" and "Free Bird," which launched the band to national stardom.

"Tuesday's Gone" is the second track on Lynyrd Skynyrd's first album, (Pronounced 'lĕh-'nérd 'skin-'nérd). It also appears on the band's first live LP, One More From the Road.

Gimme Three Steps 1973 song performed by Lynyrd Skynyrd

"Gimme Three Steps" is a song by southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd released on its 1973 debut album, (Pronounced 'Lĕh-'nérd 'Skin-'nérd). It was written by Allen Collins and Ronnie Van Zant.

Lynyrd Skynyrd's biggest hit single was "Sweet Home Alabama" from their follow-up album Second Helping, an answer to Neil Young's "Alabama" and "Southern Man." Young's song "Powderfinger" on the 1979 album Rust Never Sleeps was reportedly written for Skynyrd, and Van Zant is pictured on the cover of Street Survivors wearing a T-shirt of Young's Tonight's the Night [3] and in the 2 July 1977 Oakland Coliseum concert (excerpted in Freebird... The Movie ). [4]

<i>Second Helping</i> 1974 studio album by Lynyrd Skynyrd

Second Helping is the second studio album by Lynyrd Skynyrd, released April 15, 1974. It featured the band's biggest hit single, "Sweet Home Alabama," an answer song to Neil Young's "Alabama" and "Southern Man". The song reached #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in August 1974. This L.P. was the last to feature Bob Burns on drums.

Neil Young Canadian singer-songwriter

Neil Percival Young, is a Canadian singer-songwriter. After embarking on a music career in the 1960s, he moved to Los Angeles, where he formed Buffalo Springfield with Stephen Stills, Richie Furay and others. Young had released two solo albums and three as a member of Buffalo Springfield by the time he joined Crosby, Stills & Nash in 1969. From his early solo albums and those with his backing band Crazy Horse, Young has recorded a steady stream of studio and live albums, sometimes warring with his recording company along the way.

"Southern Man" is a song by Neil Young from his album After the Gold Rush. The album was released in 1970. An extended live version can be heard on the Crosby Stills Nash & Young album 4 Way Street.

Death

On October 20, 1977, a plane carrying the band between shows from Greenville, South Carolina, to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, ran out of fuel outside Gillsburg, Mississippi. The passengers had been informed about potential problems with the Convair CV-240 and were told to brace for a crash. [5] Van Zant died on impact from head injuries suffered after the aircraft struck a tree. Bandmates Steve Gaines and Cassie Gaines, along with assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick, pilot Walter McCreary, and co-pilot William Gray, were also killed. The rest of the band was seriously injured. [6] Van Zant was 29 years old.

Greenville, South Carolina City in South Carolina

Greenville is the largest city in and the seat of Greenville County, South Carolina, United States. The city's mayor is Knox H. White, who has been in that position since December 1995. With an estimated population of 68,219 as of 2017, it is the sixth-largest city in the state. The population of the surrounding area was 400,492 as of 2010, making it the third-largest urban area in South Carolina as well as the fastest growing. Greenville is the largest city in the Greenville-Anderson-Mauldin Metropolitan Statistical Area. The MSA had a population of 906,626 in 2018, making it the largest in South Carolina and the third largest in the Carolinas.

Baton Rouge, Louisiana Capital of Louisiana

Baton Rouge is the capital of the U.S. state of Louisiana. Located on the eastern bank of the Mississippi River, it is the parish seat of East Baton Rouge Parish, the most populous parish in Louisiana. It is the 99th most populous city in the United States, and second-largest city in Louisiana after New Orleans. It is also the 16th most populous state capital. As of the U.S. Census Bureau's July 2017 estimate, Baton Rouge had a population of 227,549, down from 229,493 at the 2010 census. Baton Rouge is the center of Greater Baton Rouge, the second-largest metropolitan area in Louisiana, with a population of 834,159 as of 2017, up from 802,484 in 2010 and 829,719 in 2015.

Gillsburg, Mississippi town in Mississippi

Gillsburg is an unincorporated community in Amite County, Mississippi, United States. The community is part of the McComb, Mississippi Micropolitan Statistical Area.

According to former bandmate Artimus Pyle and family members, Van Zant frequently discussed his mortality. Pyle recalls a moment when Lynyrd Skynyrd was in Japan: "Ronnie and I were in Tokyo, Japan, and Ronnie told me that he would never live to see thirty and that he would go out with his boots on, in other words, on the road. I said, 'Ronnie, don't talk like that,' but the man knew his destiny." [7] Van Zant's father, Lacy, said, "He said to me many times, 'Daddy, I'll never be 30 years old.' I said, 'Why are you talking this junk? You will never be 30 years old?’ and he said, 'Daddy, that's my limit.'" Van Zant's father later noted that, "God was a jealous god. Taking him for reasons I don't know." [7] Ex-bandmate Ed King also reported hearing Van Zant saying he would never live to be 30 years old, saying Van Zant said it so often that he "had gotten sick of hearing it". [8] Lynyrd Skynyrd backup singer JoJo Billingsley recalled that Van Zant had begun referring to himself as "The Mississippi Kid" in the months before his death despite being born and raised in Florida. She noted that, eerily, Van Zant's only connection to Mississippi was the fact that he would ultimately die there. [9]

Van Zant's younger brother, Johnny, took over as the new lead singer when the band reunited in 1987.

Ex-Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist Ed King recalls the intense sadness of Van Zant's funeral, noting that people in attendance were so overcome with grief that they were literally falling down. [8] Van Zant was buried in Orange Park, Florida, in 1977. His body was relocated after vandals broke into his tomb and that of bandmate Steve Gaines on June 29, 2000. Van Zant's casket was pulled out and dropped on the ground. The bag containing Gaines' remains was torn open and some scattered onto the grass. [10] Their mausoleums at Orange Park remain as memorials for fans to visit.

According to the cemetery listing website Find-a-Grave, Van Zant was reburied at Riverside Memorial Park in Jacksonville, near the grave of his father Lacy and mother Marion. Both his current resting place and the empty mausoleum in Orange Park are listed, with the statement: "Due to the June 29th, 2000 vandalization of his original grave site, his casket was moved to this new location and buried in a massive underground concrete burial vault. To open the vault would require a tractor with a lift capacity of several tons. It is also patrolled by security." [11]

Personal life

Van Zant married Nadine Inscoe on January 2, 1967. Around this time, Van Zant also worked at his brother-in-law's auto parts store, Morris Auto Parts in Jacksonville. It was said that Van Zant was a virtual catalog of automotive parts, he had a near photographic memory for them. The couple had a daughter named Tammy, before divorcing in 1969; Tammy would become a musician. He married Judy Seymour in 1972 after meeting her at The Comic Book Club through Gary Rossington in 1969. [2] (The club closed in 1975 and is now a parking garage.) [12] They remained married up until his death in 1977. They had one daughter, Melody, born in 1976. Judy Van Zant-Jenness founded the Freebird Live in 1999, a music venue located in Jacksonville Beach, Florida. It features Lynyrd Skynyrd memorabilia and is co-owned by Melody Van Zant. She married Jim Jenness and founded and ran The Freebird Foundation until its dissolution in 2001.

Van Zant was an avid fisherman. He enjoyed baseball, and was a fan of the Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees. As a child, he played American Legion baseball and aspired to play professional baseball, as he recalled in a 1975 interview. [2]

Van Zant had several run-ins with the law, most notably in 1975, when he was arrested for hurling a table out of a second-story hotel room window. [13] [14]

Legacy

The Ronnie Van Zant Memorial Park, funded by fans and family of the band, was built on Sandridge Road in Lake Asbury, Florida, nearby his hometown of Jacksonville.

Several members of his family have memorialized Ronnie in their music. His brothers Johnny and Donnie co-wrote the title track of John's 1990 album "Brickyard Road" [15] with family friend and album producer Robert White Johnson. In the reformed Lynyrd Skynyrd's music video for the posthumously-released track "What's Your Name" closes with a white hat similar to Ronnie's sitting atop a microphone. Ronnie's daughter Tammy, who was only 10 years old when he died, dedicated the album title track, "Freebird Child" as well as the music video to her father in 2009. [16] Jimmie Van Zant recorded the tribute track "Ronnie's Song" on the album Southern Comfort (2000). [17]

Alt country band Drive-By Truckers also paid tribute to Ronnie and members of the original band on their Southern Rock Opera album.

"The All-Night Bus Ride", the 8th episode of Season 1 of the Showtime series Roadies , was made in honor of Van Zant and the band.

Notes

  1. 1 2 Charlotte Dillon. "Ronnie Van Zant | Biography & History". AllMusic . Retrieved May 26, 2016.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Wailer Website Services. "The Official Lynyrd Skynyrd History Website – History Lessons". Lynyrdskynyrdhistory.com. Retrieved July 12, 2014.
  3. "Lynyrd Skynyrd and Neil Young: Friends or Foes? An Analysis of Sweet Home Alabama and Southern Man". Thrasher's Wheat. Retrieved June 2, 2012.
  4. Lynyrd Skynyrd - Freebird - 7/2/1977 - Oakland Coliseum Stadium on YouTube
  5. US National Transportation Safety Board 1978, p6.
  6. Check-Six 2007.
  7. 1 2 ""Behind the Music Remastered: Lynyrd Skynyrd" ( Ep. 207 ) from Behind The Music Remastered | Full Episode". VH1.com. Retrieved December 30, 2011.
  8. 1 2 The Ray Shasho Show, BBS Radio 1 Network, 2016
  9. If I Leave Here Tomorrow: A Film About Lynyrd Skynyrd, Passion Pictures, Directed by Stephen Kijak, 2018
  10. Anderson 2000.
  11. Soorus 2002.
  12. "Jacksonville.com: Many of the area's music landmarks no longer exist 07/05/98 | Jacksonville.com". jacksonville.com. Archived from the original on October 9, 2012. Retrieved July 12, 2014.
  13. "What did the band Lynyrd Skynyrd contribute to music?". Enotes.com. Retrieved May 26, 2016.
  14. Kline, Jeff (April 28, 1976). "Lynyrd Skynyrd Known For Fights As Well As Music". Lakeland Ledger.
  15. Johnny Van Zant - Brickyard Road on YouTube
  16. "Freebird Child". Freebirdchild.Com. Retrieved May 26, 2016.
  17. Jimmie Van Zant - Ronnie's Song on YouTube

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