Skynyrd became known for their triple guitar lineup, as seen in their hit Freebird, a song first dedicated to Duane Allman, the lead guitarist of the Allman Brothers Band who died in a motorcycle accident. This song was not written as a tribute to Duane, rather it was dedicated to him at concerts. "Free Bird" (from their debut album "Pronounced") has become the subject of a generic rock concert cliche, the joke being that you can't go to a concert without hearing somebody shouting a request for that song. The song was the second on the radio's most requested list in 1976. The song features an amazing 7 minute long guitar solo.
In 1974 they released the album Second Helping, featuring the hit single "Sweet Home Alabama" (Skynyrd's most popular song). Another well-known song is "Gimme Three Steps". While it is fairly well known and obvious from lyrics that "Sweet Home Alabama" was something of a rebuttal to the Neil Young song "Southern Man", the belief that Young and the members of Skynyrd were rivals is incorrect. Young and Skynyrd had actually considered collaborating on several occasions and, after the breakup of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Young performed "Sweet Home Alabama" on stage on rare occasions. There was a "feud", but it was of a strictly amicable nature.
In their formative years, lead singer Ronnie Van Zant was the driving force behind the band, also co-writing many of the group's hits, which also included "Gimme Three Steps", "Gimme Back My Bullets", and "What's Your Name?".
But their legend is grounded in a 1977 tragic plane crash. On October 20, 1977, a plane crash killed lead singer and song writer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines, vocalist Cassie Gaines, assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick. Also killed were pilot Walter McCreary and co-pilot William Gray.
The group broke up after the air crash. They reunited in the late 1980s and 1990s. A substantially different version of the band (with new lead singer Johnny Van Zant, brother of Ronnie) continues to tour and record as of 2004.