Free Bird

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"Free Bird"
Lynyrd-Skynyrd-Free-Bird.jpg
1976 UK issue
Single by Lynyrd Skynyrd
from the album (Pronounced 'Lĕh-'nérd 'Skin-'nérd)
B-side"Down South Jukin'"
ReleasedNovember 1974 (1974-11)
RecordedApril 3, 1973
StudioStudio One, Doraville, Georgia, U.S.
Genre
Length
LabelMCA
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)Al Kooper
Lynyrd Skynyrd singles chronology
"Sweet Home Alabama"
(1974)
"Free Bird"
(1974)
"Saturday Night Special"
(1975)
Audio sample
Free Bird

"Free Bird",[4][5][6] also spelled "Freebird",[7][8][9] is a song written by Allen Collins and Ronnie Van Zant and performed by American rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd. The song featured on the band's debut album in 1973.

Released as a single in November 1974, "Free Bird" entered the Billboard Hot 100 on November 23 at No. 87[10] and became the band's second Top 40 hit in early 1975, peaking at No. 19 on January 25.[11] A live version of the song reentered the charts in late 1976,[12] eventually peaking at No. 38 in January 1977.[13]

"Free Bird" achieved the No. 8 spot on Guitar World's 100 Greatest Guitar Solos.[14] It is Lynyrd Skynyrd's signature song, the finale during live performances, and their longest song, often going well over 14 minutes when played live.[15]

Origins[edit]

According to guitarist Gary Rossington, for two years after Allen Collins wrote the initial chords, vocalist Ronnie Van Zant insisted that there were too many for him to create a melody in the belief that the melody needed to change alongside the chords. After Collins played the unused sequence at rehearsal one day, Van Zant asked him to repeat it, then wrote out the melody and lyrics in three or four minutes. The guitar solos that finish the song were added originally to give Van Zant a chance to rest, as the band was playing several sets per night at clubs at the time. Soon afterward, the band learned piano-playing roadie Billy Powell had written an introduction to the song; upon hearing it, they included it as the finishing touch and had him formally join as their keyboardist.

Allen Collins's girlfriend, Kathy, whom he later married, asked him, "If I leave here tomorrow, would you still remember me?" Collins noted the question and it eventually became the opening line of "Free Bird". Also in an interview filmed during a fishing outing on a boat with Gary Rossington, an interviewer asked Ronnie Van Zant what the song meant. Van Zant replied that in essence, that the song is "what it means to be free, in that a bird can fly wherever he wants to go". He further stated that "everyone wants to be free...that's what this country's all about".[16]

The song is dedicated to the memory of Duane Allman by the band in their live shows.[17] During their 1975 performance on The Old Grey Whistle Test, Van Zant dedicated the song to both Allman and Berry Oakley, commenting, "they're both free birds".[18][19]

On the 1987–1988 Lynyrd Skynyrd Tribute Tour, the band played "Free Bird" as an instrumental. Johnny Van Zant first sang the song on its Lynyrd Skynyrd 1991 Tour in Baton Rouge, where the band had been headed in 1977 when several members were killed in a plane crash.

Reception[edit]

"Free Bird" is included in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll and at number 407 in Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. In 2009, it was named the 26th best hard rock song of all time by VH1.[20]

Legacy[edit]

On Skynyrd's first live album, 1976's One More from the Road, Van Zant can be heard asking the crowd, "What song is it you wanna hear?" The calls for "Free Bird" led into a fourteen-and-a-half-minute rendition of the song. It has become something of a humorous tradition for audience members at concerts to shout "Free Bird!" as a request to hear the song, regardless of the performer or style of music.[9] For example, during Nirvana's 1993 MTV Unplugged in New York show, a shout-out for "Free Bird!" eventually resulted in a lyrically slurred, if short, rendition of "Sweet Home Alabama". In 2016, an attendee of a Bob Dylan concert in Berkeley, California, shouted for "Free Bird" to be played, and Dylan and his band unexpectedly obliged.[21]

Notable cover versions[edit]

The song has been covered many times. Among the most notable is a version by American dance-pop group Will to Power who created a medley of this song and the 1976 Peter Frampton song "Baby, I Love Your Way" in 1988. Titled "Baby, I Love Your Way/Freebird Medley". The song spent one week at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.[22]

Personnel[edit]

Lynyrd Skynyrd (studio version 1973)

Additional personnel (live version 1976)

Chart and sales performance[edit]

The song has sold 2,111,000 downloads in the digital era, as of 2013.[23]

Weekly charts[edit]

Studio version

Chart (1974–1975) Peak
position
Canada RPM Top Singles[24] 58
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 19
U.S. Cashbox Top 100 25

Live version

Chart (1976–1977) Peak
position
Canada RPM Top Singles[25] 47
US Billboard Hot 100[26] 38
US Cash Box Top 100[27] 32
Chart (1979–1980) Peak
position
UK Singles Chart 43
Chart (1982) Peak
position
Ireland (IRMA)[28] 13
UK Singles Chart 21

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[29] Platinum 600,000double-dagger

double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

In popular culture[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The History Of Southern Rock In 30 Songs". Classic Rock Magazine. June 5, 2016. Retrieved June 2, 2019. The track that, more than any other, defined the southern rock genre.
  2. ^ Cavanagh, David (2015). Good Night and Good Riddance: How Thirty-Five Years of John Peel Helped to Shape Modern Life. Faber & Faber. p. 158. ISBN 978-0-57130-248-2.
  3. ^ Breihan, Tom (June 11, 2021). "The Number Ones: Will To Power's "Baby, I Love Your Way / Freebird Medley (Free Baby)"". Stereogum. Retrieved October 10, 2022. ...Peter Frampton's "Baby, I Love Your Way" and Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Free Bird," two entries in the grand pantheon of '70s lighters-up arena-rock power ballads.
  4. ^ Lynyrd Skynyrd. (Pronounced 'Lĕh-'nérd 'Skin-'nérd). Songs of the South (Universal City), 1973. Hosted at Discogs Archived April 24, 2006, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved June 9, 2014.
  5. ^ Lynyrd Skynyrd. "Free Bird / Searching". MCA Records (Universal City), 1976. Hosted at Discogs Archived April 24, 2006, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved June 9, 2014.
  6. ^ Whitburn, Joel. The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, 9th ed., p. 403. Billboard Books (New York), 2010. Retrieved June 9, 2014.
  7. ^ Lynyrd Skynyrd. "Free Bird / Sweet Home Alabama / Double Trouble". Leeds Music Ltd. (London), 1976. Hosted at Discogs "Archived copy". Archived from the original on June 29, 2004. Retrieved June 9, 2014.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link). Retrieved June 9, 2014.
  8. ^ Lynyrd Skynyrd. Official Website. "(pronounced leh-nerd skin-nerd) Archived February 27, 2012, at the Wayback Machine". Retrieved June 9, 2014.
  9. ^ a b Fry, Jason. "Rock's Oldest Joke: Yelling 'Freebird!' In a Crowded Theater" in The Wall Street Journal. March 17, 2005. Retrieved June 9, 2014.
  10. ^ "Billboard Charts Archive, November 23, 1974". Billboard. January 2, 2013. Retrieved July 16, 2018.
  11. ^ "Lynyrd Skynyrd Chart History". Billboard. Retrieved July 16, 2018.
  12. ^ "Billboard Charts Archive, December 4, 1976". Billboard. Retrieved July 16, 2018.
  13. ^ "Billboard Charts Archive, December 4, 1976". Billboard. January 2, 2013. Retrieved July 16, 2018.
  14. ^ "100 Greatest Guitar Solos: 3) 'Free Bird' (Allen Collins, Gary Rossington)". Guitar World. October 14, 2008. Retrieved March 7, 2012.
  15. ^ "Lynyrd Skynyrd Biography". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on January 14, 2012. Retrieved November 7, 2014.
  16. ^ "Free Bird by Lynyrd Skynyrd Songfacts". Songfacts.com. Retrieved March 7, 2012.
  17. ^ Paul, Alan (March 4, 2009). "Prime Cuts: Lynyrd Skynyrd". Guitar World. Archived from the original on May 15, 2013. Retrieved September 9, 2013.
  18. ^ "Lynyrd Skynyrd-Free Bird Live Old Grey Whistle Test 1975". YouTube. Archived from the original on December 22, 2021.
  19. ^ The Old Grey Whistle Test (DVD). Warner Home Video. 2003.
  20. ^ "spreadit.org music". Archived from the original on February 12, 2009. Retrieved February 7, 2009.
  21. ^ "Bob Dylan Actually Plays 'Free Bird' After Fan Request: Watch". Billboard.com. June 16, 2016. Retrieved April 23, 2021.
  22. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, 8th Edition (Billboard Publications)
  23. ^ Grein, Paul (November 27, 2013). "Chart Watch: Eminem Returns to #1, Gaga Sinks to #8". Yahoo Music. Retrieved November 27, 2013.
  24. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. January 25, 1975. Retrieved March 8, 2019.
  25. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. January 15, 1977. Retrieved March 8, 2019.
  26. ^ Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955–1990 - ISBN 0-89820-089-X
  27. ^ "Cash Box Top 100 Singles, January 15, 1977". Archived from the original on March 27, 2019. Retrieved March 7, 2019.
  28. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Free Bird". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved March 8, 2019.
  29. ^ "British single certifications – Lynyrd Skynyrd – Free Bird". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved December 21, 2021.
  30. ^ "House of Cards" Chapter 2 (TV Episode 2013), IMDb, retrieved January 15, 2021
  31. ^ Bramwell, Tom (October 26, 2004). "GTA: San Andreas soundtrack listing". Eurogamer. Retrieved December 29, 2021.
  32. ^ "This is the full 83-track Rock Band 3 setlist". engadget. Retrieved December 29, 2021.
  33. ^ Guerrasio, Jason. "One of the most memorable scenes from 'Kingsman' was originally longer and more violent". Business Insider. Retrieved January 15, 2021.
  34. ^ "Tituss Burgess looks back on Titus' evolution and 'the embarrassment of riches' that was 'Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt'". Gold Derby.