New documentary, “Lynyrd Skynyrd: If I Leave Here Tomorrow” is reported to cover a great deal of ground and to focus on the aspect of the band that most people don’t want to talk about, but that has become an enduring part of the Southern rock band’s legacy: the plane crash that killed lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines, backup singer Cassie Gaines and others.
The film is slated to premiere on Aug. 18, 2018 on Showtime. Rolling Stone magazine and others discuss the premise and focus of the documentary. From all accounts, it seems as though the material will be a bit darker, while also providing insights into the personalities that comprised the band.
Rolling Stone quotes a participant in the film. He or she says, “The one thing that I want the world to know is how bravely my band met their death.”
The quote is chilling. It adds a level of darkness to a band’s history that is complete with a catalog of songs that allude to early death. The description of the documentary is likely to intrigue even casual fans of the band.
Lynyrd Skynyrd and the ethos of Southern rock
Certainly Lynyrd Skynyrd is not the only Southern rock band. But the band’s popularity and their particular knack for storytelling, along with a variety of killer riffs, helped to distinguish them from a handful of other bands.
Lynyrd Skynyrd taught audiences about what it meant to be from the American South. They were cultural informants who told audiences that drug use was a problem in the American South, and not just urban centers in northern states.
One contentious aspect of the band for some people is the group’s unabashed affinity for the rebel flag. According to reports, that aspect will discussed, and the film will be worth watching for that bit of information alone.
Lynyrd Skynyrd’s music is marked by bluesy riffs, twanging dynamics, and the ability to make it all sound like a new form of rock and roll – – which it was.
In addition, Lynyrd Skynrd seemed to have tapped into the Southern tradition of oral storytelling. From radio fare songs such as “Gimme Three Steps,” to the deeper track (as in, a person had to own the album to hear it) “The Ballad of Curtis Loew,” the band’s songwriting painted a vision of the South and of life in general that was unique to them.
The idea of Southern rebels came to life in the form of Lynyrd Skynyrd. Songs like “Sweet Home Alabama” served as a middle finger of sorts to musician Neil Young. As one line famously states, “I hope Neil Young will remember/a Southern man don’t need him around anyhow.”
For people who were too young to have heard Young’s “Southern Man” the line seems cryptic. Then, upon hearing the song, listeners get it.
The rebellion continued in 1976. The album “Gimme Back My Bullets” contained the title track that is the musical equivalent of squaring one’s shoulders and getting down to business, and not backing down from challenges. It, too, like several other Skynyrd songs has a narrative that sounds at once personal and universal.
Lynyrd Skynrd after the plane crash
For those who appreciate the band, but are too young to have lived through radio or newspaper announcements about the group’s demise, it is difficult to imagine the heartbreak and disappointment such news must have brought.
It is easy to see the spectre of death after the fact. But once upon a time, Lynyrd Skynyrd were a fun-loving group of guy from the South who played great music. Every time one of their songs comes on, audiences can hear that.
The band’s legacy continued in the late 1980s with Van Zant’s younger brother, Johnny, taking over lead vocalist duties. The band’s surviving members suffered mishaps of various sorts, but the band endured until 2018 when their farewell tour was announced in January.