Over the July 4 weekend in 1977, the iconic southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd played to a sold-out crowd at the Oakland Coliseum in Northern California. The set included “Sweet Home Alabama”, which was heavily cheered despite the ongoing but good natured lyrical feud with Bay Area resident Neil Young. They also performed a legendary, heart wrenching version of “Free Bird”.
This performance became that much more meaningful after a plane crash a little more than three months later on October 22, 1977 that tragically cut short the lives of lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines and that of his sister, backup singer Cassie Gaines.
The guys take six minutes to stretch their legs on this version of “Sweet Home Alabama.” The song had been released three years prior as a response song to the Neil Young numbers “Southern Man” and “Alabama,” which were both critical of southern politics. Ironically, by some reports, Van Zant was wearing a Neil Young t-shirt at the time of this performance. The show is closed with “Free Bird,” which by many fans’ estimations is only rivaled by Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” as the most epic closing song in rock history.