Fly High, Free Bird

29 Jan
Billy Powell  1952 - 2009

Billy Powell 1952 - 2009

Another of the original Lynyrd Skynyrd as flown away.  Keyboardist Billy Powell, passed away early yesterday at the age of 56.  Powell was on board the plane that crashed in October of 1977 in Central Mississippi on their way to a performance at LSU in Baton Rouge.  Oddly enough, Powell was scheduled to play with the re-vamped Skynyrd band in Kinder, LA this weekend.

Billy Powell started as a roadie for the early version of Lynyrd Skynyrd.  An accomplished piano player, Powell sat down to test out the keyboards at a prom gig and Ronnie Van Zant liked Powell’s strains on Freebird.  Powell was officially brought into the band in 1972.

Powell survived the 1977 plane crash that claimed Van Zant, Steve Gaines and his sister, Cassie, but suffered severe facial lacerations, almost losing his nose.  In VH1’s Behind the Music, Powell gave a graphic description of the crash, upsetting members of the Gaines and Van Zant families.  Despite the conflict, Powell has been an active member of the revived Lynyrd Skynyrd since 1987.

With Powell’s death, only drummer Artemus Pyle, guitarist Ed King and guitarist Gary Rossington survive.  There’s even been speculation that the band members are victims of some sort of curse called into being from the enigmatic Freebird.

If I leave here tomorrow,
Would you still remember me?
For I must be traveling on, now,
‘Cause there’s too many places I’ve got to see.
But if I stayed here with you, girl,
Things just couldn’t be the same.
‘Cause I’m as free as a bird now,
And this bird you can not change.
And the bird you can not change.
And this bird you can not change.
Lord knows, I can’t change.

Bye bye baby, it’s been a sweet love. Yea.
And though this feeling I can’t change.
But please don’t take it so badly,
‘Cause the Lord knows I’m to blame.
And if I stay here with you girl,
Things just couldn’t be the same.
Cause I’m as free as a bird now,
And this bird you’ll never change.
And the bird you can not change.
And this bird you can not change.
The Lord knows, I can’t change.
Lord help me, I can’t change.
Lord I can’t change.
Won’t cha fly high free bird, yeah.

All very young when their legendary southern rock anthems were born, very few of them will see old age.  However, their Southern Fried Rock will live on with the Me generation, as well as their kids and grandkids.


  Call Me the Breeze

  The Redneck National Anthem

  That Smell

  What’s Your Name?

  Georgia Peaches

Great stuff.  Where is today’s Lynyrd Skynyrd?


Posted by on January 29, 2009 in memorials, music legends, rock


5 responses to “Fly High, Free Bird

  1. blueberry

    January 29, 2009 at 2:06 pm

    I hadn’t heard about this – thanks for letting us know. So sad, so young….

    I didn’t become aware of Lynyrd Skynyrd until the mid 80’s during a time in which a very different type of music was popular. It was when listening to Freebird that I actually understood how a guitar could sing. Good times, good times…. There is nobody today who comes even close (for me).

  2. shrewspeaks

    January 29, 2009 at 3:40 pm

    Man so young.

    He must have dealt with clients.

  3. Rick

    December 28, 2009 at 1:04 am

    I got to see the group in Deansboro, NY a couple of years ago. I’ve been listening to them play most of my life. He played the piano so SWEET! We’ll surely miss him. He is with Ronnie now catching up.

  4. Lindsay Margaret Steel

    January 6, 2016 at 6:51 pm

    thank you for all the great music !!


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