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Free Bird

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"Free Bird"
side-A label
US single of the shortened studio recording
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.
Producer(s)Al Kooper
Lynyrd Skynyrd singles chronology
"Sweet Home Alabama"
"Free Bird"
"Saturday Night Special"
"Free Bird" (album version) on YouTube
"Free Bird" (Extended Music Version) on YouTube
"Free Bird" (live, undubbed, 1976) on YouTube
Live video
"Free Bird" (live, 1977) on YouTube

"Free Bird",[4][5][6] also spelled "Freebird",[7][8][9] is a song by American rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, written by guitarist Allen Collins and lead singer Ronnie Van Zant. The song was released on their 1973 debut studio album.

Released as a single in November 1974, "Free Bird" debuted on the US 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 re-entered the charts in late 1976,[12] eventually peaking at No. 38 in January 1977.[13]

"Free Bird" achieved No. 3 on Guitar World's list of greatest guitar solos of all time in 2010 and 2016,[14][15] while placing at No. 8 in their rankings by 2022.[16] 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.[17] "Free Bird" was once the most requested song on FM radio,[18] and remains a staple on classic rock stations.


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."[19]

The song is dedicated to the memory of Duane Allman by the band in their live shows.[20] 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".[21][22]

During 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.


Upon the single release, Record World said that the band "sees this country-tinged tune soar to further feather their hit nest."[23]

"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.[24]

In 2008, the 1973 recording of "Free Bird" from the Lynyrd Skynyrd (Pronounced 'Lĕh-'nerd 'Skin-'nerd) album on MCA Records was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.[25]


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 want to 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.[26]

Notable cover versions[edit]


Lynyrd Skynyrd[edit]

Additional personnel on 1976 live version[edit]

Chart and sales performance[edit]

The song has sold 2,111,000 downloads in the digital era, as of 2013.[29]

Weekly charts[edit]

Studio version

Chart (1974–1975) Peak
Canada RPM Top Singles[30] 58
US Billboard Hot 100 19
US Cashbox Top 100 25

Live version

Chart (1976–1977) Peak
Canada RPM Top Singles[31] 47
US Billboard Hot 100[32] 38
US Cash Box Top 100[33] 32
Chart (1979–1980) Peak
UK Singles Chart 43
Chart (1982) Peak
Ireland (IRMA)[34] 13
UK Singles Chart 21
Chart (2023) Peak
US Hot Rock & Alternative Songs (Billboard)[35] 24


Region Certification Certified units/sales
Italy (FIMI)[36] Gold 50,000
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[37] Gold 30,000
United Kingdom (BPI)[38] Platinum 600,000

Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

In popular culture[edit]

  • The 2014 film Kingsman: The Secret Service, the song's solo plays during an iconic scene in which Harry Hart (Colin Firth) engages in a massive, extremely violent, church brawl. Director Matthew Vaughn revealed he picked "Free Bird" specifically because its guitar solo was long enough to encompass the whole scene.[39]
  • In the 1994 film Forrest Gump, it is the emotional soundtrack to Jenny's (Robin Wright) contemplation of suicide on a hotel ledge.


  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 "Discogs". Archived from the original on June 29, 2004. Retrieved June 9, 2014.{{cite web}}: 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. ^ Guitar World Magazine (October 1, 2010). The Complete History of Guitar World: 30 Years of Music, Magic, and Six-String Mayhem. Backbeat Books. ISBN 978-1-4768-5592-9.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  15. ^ "Hear Allen Collins' Isolated Guitar Solo from Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Free Bird" | Guitar World". July 18, 2016. Archived from the original on September 20, 2020. Retrieved January 4, 2024.
  16. ^ "The 50 greatest guitar solos of all time". Guitar World. July 20, 2022. Retrieved April 1, 2023.
  17. ^ "Lynyrd Skynyrd Biography". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on January 14, 2012. Retrieved November 7, 2014.
  18. ^ Kozak, Roman (August 30, 1980). "U.S. Rock Groups Will Play In China". Billboard Magazine: 10. Retrieved January 4, 2024 – via Google Books. "'Free Bird,' the only Skynyrd number they perform on stage now, has become FM radio's most popular request song, overtaking Led Zeppelin's 'Stairway to Heaven,' they say.
  19. ^ "Free Bird by Lynyrd Skynyrd Songfacts". Songfacts.com. Retrieved March 7, 2012.
  20. ^ Paul, Alan (March 4, 2009). "Prime Cuts: Lynyrd Skynyrd". Guitar World. Archived from the original on May 15, 2013. Retrieved September 9, 2013.
  21. ^ "Lynyrd Skynyrd-Free Bird Live Old Grey Whistle Test 1975". YouTube. Archived from the original on December 22, 2021.
  22. ^ The Old Grey Whistle Test (DVD). Warner Home Video. 2003.
  23. ^ "Hits of the Week" (PDF). Record World. November 16, 1974. p. 1. Retrieved March 14, 2023.
  24. ^ "spreadit.org music". Archived from the original on February 12, 2009. Retrieved February 7, 2009.
  25. ^ "GRAMMY Hall Of Fame | Hall of Fame Artists | GRAMMY.com". grammy.com.
  26. ^ "Bob Dylan Actually Plays 'Free Bird' After Fan Request: Watch". Billboard.com. June 16, 2016. Retrieved April 23, 2021.
  27. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, 8th Edition (Billboard Publications)
  28. ^ "36 Albums We Can't Wait to Hear This Fall; AUDIO". Brave Words. August 24, 2023. Retrieved August 25, 2023.
  29. ^ Grein, Paul (November 27, 2013). "Chart Watch: Eminem Returns to #1, Gaga Sinks to #8". Yahoo Music. Retrieved November 27, 2013.
  30. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. January 25, 1975. Retrieved March 8, 2019.
  31. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. January 15, 1977. Retrieved March 8, 2019.
  32. ^ Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955–1990 - ISBN 0-89820-089-X
  33. ^ "Cash Box Top 100 Singles, January 15, 1977". Archived from the original on March 27, 2019. Retrieved March 7, 2019.
  34. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Free Bird". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved March 8, 2019.
  35. ^ "Lynyrd Skynyrd Chart History (Hot Rock & Alternative Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved March 14, 2023.
  36. ^ "Italian single certifications – Lynyrd Skynyrd – Free Bird" (in Italian). Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana. Retrieved February 14, 2024.
  37. ^ "Lynyrd Skynyrd". El portal de Música. Productores de Música de España. Retrieved May 15, 2024.
  38. ^ "British single certifications – Lynyrd Skynyrd – Free Bird". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved December 21, 2021.
  39. ^ Guerrasio, Jason. "One of the most memorable scenes from 'Kingsman' was originally longer and more violent". Business Insider. Retrieved January 15, 2021.