When Lynyrd Skynyrd‘s lead singer Ronnie Van Zant was killed in a plane crash in 1977, his bandmates were lost without the man who had been their leader for so many years. Skynyrd went on a ten-year hiatus following the crash, which also claimed the lives of band members Steve and Cassie Gaines.
After reuniting in 1987, the band brought on Ronnie’s brother, Johnny Van Zant, as the lead singer, and many of the former band members returned, including bassist/guitarist Ed King and drummer Artimus Pyle.
Although Ed and Artimus have since left the band, they look back on their time with Skynyrd, and specifically Ronnie, with great fondness. In 2009, Ed and Artimus sat down for a personal interview about Ronnie, and gave fans a window into the level of his talent.
Ed said that the key to Ronnie’s talent was simple, “He was just a raw genius, that’s all there is to it.“ To prove how much of a musical master Ronnie was, Ed shared the story of how the band put together their 1975 hit song, “Saturday Night Special,” and how Ronnie first introduced the lyrics to him:
“I can remember being the first one ever to hear the lyrics to ‘Saturday Night Special’…He gets up and walks over to me, he says ‘Keep playing, don’t stop.’ And everybody’s playing, he gets right in my ear…and sings me the first verse to Saturday Night Special, and I could have died.”
Besides his talent as a songwriter, Artimus shared that what made Ronnie stand out from other artists was his incredible stage presence. Unlike other perfomers, Artimus said that Ronnie never moved around or danced on stage, because his voice spoke for itself.
“Ronnie would stand there, and he would sing,” Artimus said. “He didn’t need anything else. He had who he was from his heart on that microphone.”
There’s no doubt, Ronnie was truly one of a kind. Tune in below to watch Ed and Artimus’ full interview about their bandmate and friend.
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