Lynyrd Skynyrd was a 1970s Southern rock band from Jacksonville that sang hit songs such as "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Free Bird". Tragedy struck the band on October 20, 1977 when their plane from Greenville, South Carolina to Baton Rouge, Louisiana crashed into a swamp in Mississippi. Lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, Guitarist Steve Gaines and backing vocalist Cassie Gaines were killed along with manager Dean Kilpatrick. Both pilots were also killed. Other members of the band suffered injuries ranging from serious to minor. The crash was blamed on the plane running out of fuel.
Currently the band survives with Van Zant's brother Johnny as its lead vocalist and original members Gary Rossington (guitar) and Billy Powell (piano).
While Skynyrd's songs vary from issue to issue politically it is believed by many that the current band, which has moved towards more of a country vibe, is fairly conservative.
With regards to the original band in the 1970s, "Sweet Home Alabama" has been called one of the most conservative songs in rock history because of lyrics such as "Watergate does not bother me" and its criticism of former Alabama Democrat governor and segregation proponent George Wallace. The song was written to reject Canadian rocker Neil Young's "Southern Man", in which he paints southerners broadly as "racists". At the beginning of "Sweet Home Alabama", Ronnie Van Zant sang the verses:
- "Well I heard Mister Young sing about her
- Well, I heard ole Neil put her down
- Well, I hope Neil Young will remember
- A Southern man don't need him around anyhow"
Lynyrd Skynyrd is also famous for the flying of Confederate flags at concerts as a sign of pride and heritage to southerners, even though many pretend to be offended.