Writer(s): Allen Collins, Ronnie Van Zant (see lyrics here)
First Charted: November 16, 1974
Peak: 19 US, 25 CB, 24 GR, 31 HR, 1 CL, 21 UK, 47 CN, 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)
Sales (in millions): 2.11 US, -- UK, 2.11 world (includes US + UK)
Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 3.0 radio, 128.84 video, 348.6 streaming
Released: September 12, 2000 (album cut on Duets soundtrack)
Peak: 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)
Sales (in millions): --
Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 3.0 radio, 0.07 video, -- streaming
Awards (Lynyrd Skynyrd):
Click on award for more details.
Awards (Arnold McCuller):
About the Song:
It “has become a rock and roll joke” to shout out “Free Bird!” at concerts, SF but it is also a tribute to “a towering rock anthem crowned with the mother of all guitar solos” BBC that “has entered hard rock folklore.” HL The song “extend[ed] the influence of Southern rock...started by the Allman Brothers.” RS500 The song was, in fact, a tribute to Allman Brothers Duane Allman and Berry Oakley, DT who died in motorcycle crashes in 1971 and 1972 respectively.
“‘Free Bird’ is the tale of a restless spirit attempting to explain to his sweetheart” HL “why he can’t settle down and make a commitment.” SF Guitarist Allen Collins’ “steady girlfriend, who realized that the band would always come first, kept asking him questions like, ‘If I leave here tomorrow, would you still remember me?’” KN
He worked on the song on and off for two years. SF When he “first brought it into rehearsals, volatile singer Ronnie Van Zandt was unenthusiastic, claiming it had too many chords.” BBC The band first recorded the song as a ballad BBC in 1972 that clocked in at 7 ½ minutes. SF Club audiences didn’t respond until “the climatic guitar duel” BBC was added to the end, stretching the song to 10 minutes.
The “record company…thought it was too long [for a single]. Even the band never thought this was going to be a hit.” SF After “Sweet Home Alabama” was a chart success, an edited “Free Bird” was released, but “the long version from the album has always been more popular.” SF
“When Skynyrd reformed in the late ‘80s it was performed as an instrumental, with an empty mic stand...adorned with Ronnie’s trademark cowboy hat” BBC as a memorial to him. He was killed in a plane crash in 1977 along with two other band members.
In 2000, the movie Duets focused on karaoke competitions. One of the contestants, Reggie Kane (Andre Braugher), is a convict. While he is performing a stripped-down, emotional version of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird,” the police arrive to arrest him.
Last updated 4/1/2023.