Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Pronounced: Leonard Skinner
Well, maybe. And maybe they would've called themselves The Noble Five -- one of the band names they considered -- and cranked out lousy music that nobody cared about.
The occasion for this discussion is the death of Leonard Skinner, the strict gym teacher for whom Lynyrd Skynyrd's name was mockingly taken, who died this week at age 77 after a battle with Alzheimer's disease.
It's true the original band members dealt with a variety of tragic consequences related to drugs and alcohol. We don't know that it caused the plane crash that killed Ronnie Van Zant, or prevented Lynyrd Skynyrd's lead singer from being the absolute best Southern rocker that he could be.
We don't know that if drummer Artimus Pyle had obeyed Skinner and the school rules at Robert E. Lee High in Jacksonville he would've found a better beat and never wound up a registered sex offender.
Guitarists Allen Collins and Gary Rossington nearly killed themselves in automobile crashes -- Collins would eventually die of related complications -- and bass player Leon Wilkeson was dead at 49, far too young to be a victim of liver disease.
That's a lot of tragedy, and it may have been related to hell raising and hard living. But greatness and tragedy are often wrapped up in the same tight ball. You sometimes don't get one without the other, especially it seems with rock 'n' roll. We wish they had all stayed around a lot longer, but we wouldn't have asked them to do things differently.
As their anthem boldly proclaimed, those birds you cannot change.