32 years after surviving the plane crash that killed Ronnie Van Zandt, Cassie Gaines, Steve Gaines, and others, Billy Powell has passed away at the age of 56. Powell, the man responsible for the intro to the most famous guitar solo outro song of all time, “Free Bird,” died at his home near Jacksonville, Florida.
News4Jax reports that Powell dialed 911 late last night and reported breathing troubles, but paramedics arrived too late to revive him from a suspected heart attack.
Powell had joined the band a few years prior to when the plane crash occurred amidst their most successful 1977 headlining tour. Ronnie Van Zandt reportedly invited him to become an official member after Powell, then one of their roadies, collaborated so successfully on the “Free Bird” recording. He took a long hiatus after the crash, recovering from severe injuries and dealing with tensions among the surviving members, but rejoined Lynyrd Skynyrd in the late 1980s.