Free Bird – Lynyrd Skynyrd | Top 40 Chart Performance, Story and Song Meaning

Chart Performance: Pop (#19); 1975

Story Behind The Song By Ed Osborne

In 1964, a line drive hit by 15-year-old Ronnie Van Zant marked the beginnings of the legendary Lynyrd Skynyrd. Said ball knocked Bob Burns – who was watching the game with Gary Rossington – unconscious.

The three quickly became fast friends with a mutual love of music and formed The Noble Five, a band that also included Allen Collins. With the addition of Larry Jungstrom, the five became My Backyard in 1965, and three years later released Michelle b/w Need All My Friends on a small Jacksonville label.

The change to the famous name took place before a 1970 gig at Jay’s Forest Inn when Van Zant introduced the band as “Leonard Skinner,” after their hostile-to-longhairs high school gym teacher. Skynyrd’s first album appeared in 1973 along with a Collins/Van Zant-penned tribute to the late Duane Allman.

Released as a single after the band’s second album and Sweet Home Alabama, Free Bird – and Lynyrd Skynyrd – soared into rock history. Even Mr. Skinner got into the act, later introducing his former students at a home-town concert.

This content and all Song Meaning articles were created and written by Top 40 Contributing Editor Ed Osborne. © 2024 Ed Osborne. All Rights Reserved. In addition to these song meaning articles, Ed has written our “Year in Music 1960s-1990s” articles.

Produced by:

  • Al Kooper

Lyrics Written by:

  • Allen Collins
  • Ronnie Van Zant