directed by Stephen Kijak
starring Ronnie Van Zant, Gary Rossington, Johnny Van Zant
Lynyrd Skynyrd came from the rough side of Jacksonville FL, so I assume there’s good side of town somewhere. They formed in the late ’60s, took their name from a tough wrestling coach who hated long haired hippies, and helped create southern rock out of their creativity and stunning work ethic. But it’s a tough business, even after they had written their classic “Freebird” eleven different labels turned them down. But they kept playing, kept building fans, and eventually opened for The Who and Stones, and totally upstaged both bands. The heart of the band was Ronnie Van Zandt, along with Bob Burns and Allen Collins. After 10 years of hard rocking they were one of the hottest bands going in 1977. Now they only needed one more accoutrements of the rock and roll life style: a functional airplane. They crashed and burned October 20, 1977 in Mississippi and to this day I remember where I was when the news came out: Dj’ing in the student union bar at my alma mater.
In If I Leave Here Tomorrow several points come across clearly: They had an incredible work ethic, often working on one song for days without stop. They kept to their roots, and while the drugs and booze flowed, they loved fishing and traipsing the county roads of north Florida. The crash was preventable, and that’s the real tragedy. Their “professional” pilots forgot to get gas before leaving, and there nothing more useless in aviation than the runway behind, the altitude above you, and gas you didn’t put on board. We even return to the crash site and meet the men who pulled the survivors out of the fire, and they can still find piece of the wreck. That ties it giving us a story exciting, tragic, and listenable with the cleanest rock doc music I’ve seen in ages.