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Lynyrd Skynyrd – Free Bird

Lynyrd Skynyrd – Free Bird

'Free Bird’, also known as ‘Freebird’, is a song by American rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd. Written by Allen Collins and Ronnie Van Zant, the song first appeared on Lynyrd Skynyrd’s debut album in 1973.

It was released as a single one year later, in November 1974, reaching No. 19 on the Billboard Hot 100. The longer, live version hit No. 38 in the charts in 1977. The song has been voted No. 8 in Guitar World's 100 Greatest Guitar Solos.

Label:   MCA
Songwriters:   Allen Collins, Ronnie Van Zant
Producer:   Al Kooper

SOME INTERESTING FACTS

Free Bird's origins started when Allen Collins wrote the chords that form the backbone of the song and then played them for the rest of the band to hear. This was done while they were rehearsing in the Hell House, which was a hot tin-roofed shack that the band had set up as their rehearsal room. Unfortunately, vocalist Ronnie Van Zant initially felt that there were too many chords for him to put together a melody to accompany them. According to lead guitarist Gary Rossington, Van Zant said “I can’t write lyrics to this, there’s too much happening”.

It was nearly two years later, while Collins was playing the unused piece of music, that Ronnie Van Zant asked him to play it again. According to Rossington, “finally he got a verse or a melody in his head. And he started practising that, playing Allen’s chords. He wrote the lyrics just laying on the couch.”

It wasn’t long after this that the band overheard their roadie, Billy Powell playing a self-written intro to the song on a piano. Not only did they include the new piece of music, but Powell went from roadie to becoming the band’s new keyboard player.

The opening line of the lyrics was inspired by a question posed to Allen Collins during an argument with his then girlfriend Kathy, when she asked him "If I leave here tomorrow, would you still remember me?". In an interview, Ronnie Van Zant said that the basis of the song’s meaning was "what it means to be free, in that a bird can fly wherever he wants to go". He further stated that "everyone wants to be free...that's what this country's all about".

Gary Rossington claims that the guitar solos that complete Free Bird evolved over a series of live performances, starting with Van Zant asking the other members to “play that a little longer, my voice is hurting, I need a break.” This happened again a couple of days later, with the guitar solos eventually reaching ten minutes, resulting in an awesome jam session by the three guitarists, Allen Collins, Ed King and Gary Rossington, as can be heard on the fan-favorite 9.08-minute album version of the song.

While the song originally had Billy Powell’s piano intro, producer Al Kooper believed that the intro needed to be played on an organ. His credibility on this suggestion was boosted by the success he had already had creating the famous organ section of Bob Dylan’s ‘Like A Rolling Stone’. Kooper played the organ on the recording, being credited as ‘Roosevelt Gook’.

In 1974, the song was dedicated by Ronnie Van Zant to Duane Allman and Berry Oakley during a live performance on The Old Grey Whistle Test, saying that “"they're both free birds". This continued in future live shows, with the band continuing to dedicate the song to Duane Allman.

The tradition of Lynyrd Skynyrd playing Free Bird as the final song at their concerts has continued throughout the band’s history, although Van Zant’s brother, Johnny, was emotionally unable to sing the lyrics for some time after Ronnie’s death, leading to the band playing the tune as an instrumental, with the crowd singing the words.

Free Bird has been widely used in a variety of Movies and TV shows, including:

Movies
  • Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)
  • The Counsel (2010)
  • Speed Racer (2008)
  • Elizabethtown (2005)
  • The Devil's Rejects (2005)
  • Forrest Gump (1994)
  • Kalifornia (1993)
  • Rush (1991)
TV Shows
  • Family Guy ("The D in Apartment 23" - 2017)
  • House of Cards ("Chapter 2" - 2013)
  • Supernatural ("Free to Be You and Me" - 2009)
  • My Name Is Earl ("Two Balls, Two Strikes" - 2007)
  • Six Feet Under ("It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" - 2002)
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer ("The Yoko Factor" - 2000)
  • Freaks and Geeks ("The Garage Door" - 2000)
  • That '70s Show ("Prom Night" - 1999)
  • The Simpsons ("The Otto Show" - 1992)

SONG LYRICS

[Intro]
[Verse 1]
If I leave here tomorrow
Would you still remember me?
For I must be traveling on, now
'Cause there's too many places I've got to see
 
[Pre-Chorus]
But if I stay here with you, girl
Things just couldn't be the same
 
[Chorus]
'Cause I'm as free as a bird now
And this bird you cannot change
Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh
And the bird you cannot change
And this bird you cannot change
Lord knows, I can't change
 

[Bridge]

[Verse 2]
Bye, bye, baby, it's been a sweet love, yeah yeah
Though this feeling I can't change
But please don't take it so badly
'Cause Lord knows I'm to blame
 
[Pre-Chorus]
But, if I stay here with you, girl
Things just couldn't be the same
 
[Chorus]
'Cause I'm as free as a bird now
And this bird you'll never change
Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh
And the bird you cannot change
And this bird you cannot change
Lord knows, I can't change
Lord help me, I can't change
 
[Outro]
Lord, I can't change
Won't you fly high, free bird, yeah
[Guitar Solo]

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