"Free Bird" is a song by the
American southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd.
It was first featured
on the band's debut album
1973, and has been included on subsequent albums released by the
Released as a single
in late 1974,
"Free Bird" became the band's second Top 40
hit on the Billboard Hot
chart in early 1975, where it peaked at #19. A live version
of the song also reached the Billboard
Hot 100 chart in
1977, peaking at #38. Free Bird also achieved the #3 spot on
s 100 Greatest
It is used as a finale by Lynyrd Skynyrd during their live
performances, and it is their longest song, often going well over
14 minutes when played live.
The lyrical portion of the song was written early in the group's
history. Roadie Billy
was discovered as a keyboardist for the band when he
played the intro piece to "Free Bird" at a high school prom. Lead
vocalist Ronnie Van Zant
talent and invited him to join.
"If I leave here tomorrow would you still remember me?" was asked
of Allen Collins
Kathy, whom he later married. Collins jotted the question down and
it eventually became the opening line of "Free Bird".
the plane crash
in 1977, all of the songs played by surviving band members
were performed as instrumentals beginning with the Charlie Daniels Volunteer Jam V in 1979.
came up, a solitary microphone with a single spotlight would be at
center stage while the band played the instrumental version. This
tradition lasted until 1989, when an almost-rioting audience
coerced Rossington to urge Johnny Van
to sing the song for the first time - something he had
vowed never to do on stage during the Tribute Tour. The current
version has a shortened solo similar to the original studio
played a Gibson SG
and used a glass Coricidin bottle for a
slide on this song to emulate one of his heroes, Duane Allman
. This was the only song he used a
guitar other than a Les Paul on. He also stuck a nail like piece of
metal under the strings near the nut to raise the action of the
guitar when playing slide. The guitar's B string was tuned down to
a G during this song. Rossington currently uses two G strings tuned
to G instead of tuning down a B string.
"Free Bird" is included in such lists as
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and
, and Rolling Stone's
500 Greatest Songs of All Time
(holding spot #191). In 2009 it
was named the 26th best hard rock song of all time by VH1
. The song — half ballad, half up-tempo guitar solo —
quickly became a staple for Lynyrd Skynyrd at their live
performances. Many recognize its nearly five-minute triple guitar
solo section that closes it out. It often turned into an extended
jam session at concerts. The band would consistently play it as the
last song of every show, as it was their biggest crowd
Popular culture cliché
It has become a popular culture cliché for the audience in many
concerts to shout "Free Bird" as a request to hear the song,
regardless of the performer or style of music.
This phenomenon began earlier in the 1970s with The Allman Brothers Band
", but then took
off to a much greater extent with "Free Bird", very popular by
1979. This can be traced back to Skynyrd's first live album, 1976's
One More From The
. Skynyrd did not
play the song during the
main portion of the concert, or even in the encore performance.
Instead they saved it for their second
leaving the stage following the first encore of the concert, the
crowd was riled by the apparent omission of Skynyrd's signature
song. The crowd then began chanting "Free Bird, Free Bird ...". No
one left the auditorium. The band then returned to the stage for a
second encore and upon taking the microphone Van Zant asked the
crowd, "What song is it you wanna hear?", which was immediately
followed by several more shouts of "Free Bird". This interaction is
recorded as an intro to the song on the album, and the band
responded with a 14-minute version of the song.
Storyteller Mitch Myers tells a thoroughly entertaining story
on NPR about how this phenomenon
might have begun.
(Studio Version) - 1973
Joel (2004). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, 8th
Edition (Billboard Publications)
- Rossington biography".
- Phillips, Derek. That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore.
Glorious Noise.com. 27 January 2004.