Ronnie Van Zant’s Concern About Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Public Image


Lynyrd Skynyrd greatly impacted the music scene as a band, reflecting the genres like southern rock, country rock, and blues rock within its sound. The band debuted in the rock scene with the album ‘(Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd)’ released in 1973. The songs from the album, such as ‘Simple Man’ and ‘Gimme Three Steps,’ remained the group’s best-known tracks. While the band was gaining massive recognition in the ’70s, it provided the Southern rock genre to become mainstream with the tracks like ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ and ‘Free Bird.’

In earlier times, rock and roll were known for alcohol, substance abuse, and extravagant parties. At the same time, the disobedient behavior of some groups was attracting the world’s attention. Lynyrd Skynyrd also appeared in the media as a rebellious band like some other rock acts. The media portrayed them sometimes with their violent attitudes and with their excessive consumption of alcohol. The lead vocalist Ronnie Van Zant said in the past that he was uncomfortable with this public image of the band and that the group would create a better reputation in the future.

Ronnie Van Zant Was Not Happy With Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Reputation


Ronnie Van Zant expressed his concern about the media’s reflecting the band as a group of children or drunks who rebelled in every situation. He did not comment on these descriptions, saying it was more important how to be seen by their audience. Van Zant stated that although they liked to enjoy their time, they would stay away from violent incidents in the future.

According to him, people thought the band evolved into Keith Moon, known for his car crashes and hotel vandalism. However, the band members realized that violence could not solve their problems. The vocalist mentioned that they decided to solve the troubles with fines instead of using violence.

Van Zant said about the band’s public image:

“The band doesn’t owe anything to anybody. Most of the media people, especially the press, have consistently portrayed us as either children or a bunch of rowdy drunks. That may or may not be true, but I know I’d much rather deal with the audiences that put us here. We like to have a good time, and we will raise hell, but I assure you there won’t be as much skull-busting going on anymore.

There was a point when it looked like everyone was going to be a Keith Moon in this band. That doesn’t work. Televisions out the window, fist-fights over mistakes in the show, now, instead of people punching each other out, we levy a fine. The best way to hit a man is in his pocket. Hitting him does no good. Breaking up a hotel room doesn’t change anything.”

One year after this interview, following the performance at the Greenville Memorial Auditorium on October 2, 1977, the band got on their plane to go to Louisiana for their next concert. However, the fuel ran out while they were in the air. Although the pilots attempted to emergency landing to decrease the danger, they crashed in a forested area. Unfortunately, Van Zant, Steve Gaines, and the backup singer Cassie Gaines died in this accident.