Is there a reason that concert-goers around the world insist on requesting "Free Bird" even in the quiet moments at every band's gig? Is that joke even funny anymore? Or could it be that "Free Bird" (aka "Son of Stairway") is actually a good song? And is there anyone in the world who hasn't heard it? If it's possible to listen with fresh ears, one might find there's one heck of a song buried underneath all nine minutes and its attendant legend. "Free Bird" was originally intended as a tribute to the deceased Allman Brothers Band guitarist, Duanne Allman, its funereal organ beginning setting the tone. In later years, the song's mythology was fueled when three of the bandmembers died in a fiery plane crash in 1977, including lead singer Ronnie Van Zant. The first line, "If I should leave here tomorrow, will you still remember me," served as a requiem not only for Allman, but for the original band. By song's end, the "Free Bird" is in fact, well, free, as the triple guitar attack explodes into the stratosphere. The song, taken from the band's 1973 Al Kooper-produced debut, Pronounced Leh'nerd Skin-Nerd, is a standard-bearer, not only in the power ballad triumvirate of heavy-hitters ("Stairway to Heaven" and "Dream On" being the other two), but in the Southern rock canon (check the Outlaws' copycat "Green Grass and High Tides"). The live version of the song, taken from the band's 1976 album, One More From the Road, is equally memorable ("how 'bout you"). Most of what Skynyrd did was done originally by their Southern kin the Allman Brothers Band, but Skynyrd certainly perfected the form on "Free Bird," as Southern rock prevailed for a spell in the '70s well above and beyond the Mason-Dixon line.