Ronnie Van Zant’s Wish About His Brother Johnny

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Lynyrd Skynyrd’s founding member Ronnie Van Zant represented the Southern rock star image with his look, style, and vocal sounds during the early ’70s. While the singer formed the band in 1964, it took them almost a decade to release their debut album, ‘(Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd),’ which dropped in 1973. The record, featuring the hit songs ‘Free Bird’ and ‘Simple Man,’ helped them reach a broader audience.

Sweet Home Alabama‘ from their follow-up album, ‘Second Helping,’ became the band’s highest-charting single. However, Ronnie Van Zant didn’t have much time to enjoy the band’s success and popularity. After recording three more Skynyrd albums, the singer tragically passed away in 1977. Following his death, the band took a break from their musical activities until reuniting in 1987.

How Did Ronnie Van Zant Die?

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Up until the death of Lynyrd Skynyrd singer Ronnie Van Zant, the band seemed to be enjoying the peak of its success. When Van Zant and the rest of Lynyrd Skynyrd boarded the plane on October 20, 1977, they had just released their fifth album. They were on their way to Louisiana, where they were scheduled to perform the following night. Yet, it all turned into a tragedy when the band’s plane ran out of fuel.

Unfortunately, the aircraft struck a tree over Mississippi, ending the life of Ronnie Van Zant and several others on board. Although Lynyrd Skynyrd disbanded after the tragedy, they would still survive against all odds. The band reunited in 1987 with five principal band members for an extensive tour. Shortly before his death, Ronnie Van Zant had a small request for his younger brother, Johnny.

What Did Ronnie Van Zant Wish For His Brother?

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Ronnie Van Zant was not the only member interested in music in the Zant family. His younger brothers, Johnny Van Zant and Donnie Van Zant, also developed an interest in the field from a young age. Although they didn’t take an active role in Lynyrd Skynyrd during Ronnie’s lifetime, Johnny became the band’s lead vocalist and chief songwriter after their reunion.

Despite some lineup changes over the years, the band still performs occasional live shows. In a 2019 interview with Louder Sound, Gary Rossington, Rickey Medlocke, and Johnny Van Zant reflected on the band’s long musical journey by discussing some turning points in their career. They also didn’t forget to talk about their late band member, Ronnie Van Zant.

Towards the end of his career with Lynyrd Skynyrd, Ronnie wasn’t sure about continuing to perform as the band’s lead vocalist. He still wanted to be a part of the band but preferred to get involved in other occupations as he wanted to take a step back from handling the vocal duties due to his throat issues.

The band’s long-term guitarist Gary Rossington revealed in the interview that Ronnie would always point out Johnny as the most accomplished singer in the family. He also wished his younger brother to be sent to the Juilliard School to get a formal education in music if he died.

Gary Rossington’s words on Ronnie Van Zant’s wish:

“He always said: ‘Johnny’s the best singer in the family.’ He also said: ‘If I die, y’all send him to Julliard.”

Considering Ronnie’s wish for his young brother, it is apparent that he was determined to get Johnny to take over the vocal duties even back then since he believed in his talent. Fortunately, Johnny Van Zant decided to continue the legacy of his late brother by reviving Lynyrd Skynyrd.