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On October 17, 1977, Lynyrd Skynyrd released their fifth studio album, Street Survivors, which included the haunting song “That Smell.” Written by the group’s lead vocalist Ronnie Van Zant and guitarist Allen Collins, the song took on a whole new meaning when Ronnie was killed in a plane crash just days after Street Survivors‘ release.
Ronnie felt inspired to write the song after witnessing his band members’ increased recklessness and use of drugs and alcohol. Author Tim Morse told the story behind “That Smell” in his book Classic Rock Stories, in which he revealed Ronnie’s concerns about what would happen to his bandmates if they continued their pattern of careless behavior.
“I had a creepy feeling things were going against us, so I thought I’d write a morbid song,” Ronnie said.
Of course, Ronnie had no idea about the tragedy that would strike shortly after the song’s release. With that in mind, the lyrics “tomorrow might not be here for you” take on a whole new meaning.
After the band reunited in 1987 with Ronnie’s brother, Johnny, as the lead vocalist, they continued to perform many of their past songs, including “That Smell.”
On July 15, 1997, the band re-recorded “That Smell” during a live performance in Pittsburgh. The recording was included on a live album called Lyve from Steel Town, and the performance was also filmed and eventually released as well.
The performance opened with a stellar guitar solo by Gary Rossington, before Johnny took command of the stage with his powerful voice. Despite the song’s somewhat sad message, the band looked like they were having a blast as they rocked out to the beat of the music. Even the crowd got involved in the performance, rising to their feet to clap and dance along.
This is one performance that you absolutely can’t miss. Watch it in the video below.
As you watch Lynyrd Skynyrd perform this classic song, don’t be surprised if you also find yourself dancing along.