Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Billy Powell, Lynyrd Skynyrd Keyboardist, Passed Away This Morning

Today is a sad day for longtime Lynyrd Skynyrd fans. Keyboardist Billy Powell died early this morning in his Florida home. Here's the story from

Powell called 911 about 12:55 a.m. Wednesday saying he was having trouble breathing. Rescue crews performed CPR, but he was pronounced dead at 1:52 a.m., said Orange Park Police Lieutenant Mark Cornett told AP. Powell, 56, reportedly had a history of heart problems, and a heart attack is the suspected cause of death. No autopsy will be performed because Powell's cardiologist will sign the death certificate, Cornett said.

The band, based in Jacksonville, Florida, formed in 1966 and took its name from a gym teacher they disliked: Leonard Skinner. Powell joined the group around 1972, the year before they released their first album, Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd.

The band, of course, went on to become one of the biggest-ever Southern rock groups, and is best known for its hit "Free Bird," which opens with Powell's piano flourishes. Skynyrd's other classics include "What's Your Name," "Gimme Three Steps" and "Sweet Home Alabama," which was a top-10 single in 1974.

A plane crash on October 20, 1977 — which killed singer Ronnie Van Zandt, guitarist Steve Gaines and backing vocalist Cassie Gaines, among others — decimated the band, although its members have continued through the years as the Rossington-Collins Band and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Powell survived the crash.

Lynyrd Skynyrd was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006.

80's Rock Videos posted a live performance of Free Bird in remembrance of Billy.


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