Sunday, October 22, 2017

Lessons Learned from Lynyrd Skynyrd

This past Friday marked the 40th anniversary of a tragedy. On October 20th, 1977, an airplane carrying the Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd plus their crew ran out of fuel and crashed in a swampy area near McComb, Mississippi. Most of the passengers were seriously injured. Six people died including lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines, and his sister Cassie Gaines who was a backup vocalist. Three days before, the band released their album “Street Survivors.” The cover eerily depicted the musicians engulfed in flames.

There’s some things we can learn from this incident. First, our words affect our destiny. Proverbs 18:21 says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue…” Ronnie Van Zant prophesied his own death. Former bandmate Artimus Pyle recalled a moment when Lynyrd Skynyrd toured Japan and Ronnie told him that he would never live to see thirty. Van Zant's father, Lacy, heard his son say many times, “Daddy, I'll never be 30 years old…that's my limit.”

Ronnie Van Zant was 29 years old at the time of his death.

Secondly, we should listen to the Lord who can steer us away from calamities. Backup singer Jojo Billingsley had left Lynyrd Skynyrd two months before that ill-fated flight. She had a dream about the crash two nights before it happened. Jojo attempted to warn her former bandmates not to get on that plane. Cassie Gaines requested to ride in the band’s equipment truck but was talked out of it. After the crash, Jojo embraced Christianity as well as keyboardist Billy Powell who briefly played in a Christian rock band before joining a reunion of Lynard Skynyrd (with Ronnie Van Zant's brother Johnny taking over as lead vocalist). 

Thirdly, we shouldn’t buy the lie that some people die young because “it’s their time to go.” Lacy Van Zant erroneously stated, “God was a jealous god. Taking him [Ronnie] for reasons I don't know.” Satan is the one who steals, kills, and destroys (John 10:10). God desires us to have long lives. Again, He will give us warnings when we’re going the wrong direction.

I was never really a fan of Lynyrd Skynyrd but still played their recordings when requested while working as a nightclub disc jockey three decades ago. One of those songs was a live version of their classic hit “Free Bird”, which ran over 14 minutes. That allowed me time away from the DJ booth to go to the bathroom and do other things. 

Nowadays, I listen to Lynyrd Skynyrd parodies done by the Christian band ApologetiX. Songs such as “Cheap Birds” (“Free Bird”), “Gimme Pre-Trib” (“Gimme Three Steps”), and “What’s in Nahum” (“What’s Your Name”) allow me to appreciate the music but instead feed my spirit with lyrics that glorify the Lord.

Since that terrible day forty years ago, some of the crash survivors have passed away including Billy Powell, guitarist Allen Collins and bassist Leon Wilkeson. I hope all of them gave their lives to Jesus before stepping into eternity. 

"The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." - 2 Peter 3:9

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