Lynyrd Skynyrd

Free Bird

Composed by Allen Collins / Ronnie Van Zant

Song Review by

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.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
(Pronounced 'Lĕh-'nérd 'Skin-'nérd) 1973 Geffen / Universal-Island Records 9:19
Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd/Second Helping Live 1974 MCA 9:08
Gimme Back My Bullets 1976 Geffen
One More from the Road 1976 Universal Distribution 13:37
Gold & Platinum 1979 MCA 14:09
Freedom Rock 1987
Various Artists
Sessions Records
Southern by the Grace of God: Lynyrd Skynyrd Tribute Tour 1987 1988 MCA 14:51
Skynyrd's Innyrds: Greatest Hits 1989 MCA 10:07
Sounds of the Seventies: 1975 1990
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 4:44
Hard Rockin' 70s [Priority] 1991
Various Artists
Priority Records
Lynyrd Skynyrd 1991 MCA 9:09
Seventies Greatest Rock Hits, Vol. 11: Heavy Hi 1991
Various Artists
Priority Records
Rebel Rousers: Southern Rock Classics 1992
Various Artists
Rhino
No Image 1992 MCA
Rock 'N Roll Juke Box Hall of Fame, Vol. 1 1992
Various Artists
Platinum Disc 9:10
Classic Rock, Vol. 1: Highway Rockers 1993
Various Artists
Priority Records
Southern Fried Rock: Second Helping 1993
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 5:00
The Harley-Davidson: American Motorcycle Soundtrack 1994
Various Artists
Cabin Fever Music 9:08
No Image 1994 Nectar Jazz
Kerrang!: The Album 1994
Various Artists
Alex 9:06
Stardust: Metal, Vol. 1 1994
Various Artists
Stardust Records
Axe Gods: Rock's Greatest Guitarists 1994
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 5:01
Rock, Vol. 3 [Sounds Direct] 1994
Various Artists
Sounds Direct
Classic Live Performances, Vol. 1 1995
Various Artists
Universal Special Products 14:10
Open Top Cars & Girls in T-Shirts, Vol. 3 1995
Various Artists
Temple
The 70's Come Alive Again 1995
Various Artists
Universal Special Products 9:07
No Image 1995
Various Artists
Columbia / Sony Music Distribution 6:16
Rockin' 70's, Vol. 2 [Universal] 1996
Various Artists
Universal Special Products 9:11
Live [JCI] 1996
Various Artists
JCI Associated Labels 14:14
Freebird: The Movie 1996 MCA 11:41
Ultimate Rock 'N' Roll Collection [EMI] 1996
Various Artists
Legacy / Sony Music Distribution
House of Blues: Essential Southern Rock 1997
Various Artists
A&M 9:08
Rockin' Guitars 1997
Various Artists
Universal Special Products 9:05
Fast Cars & Southern Stars 1997
Various Artists
Critique Records
70's Super Groups 1997
Various Artists
Rhino / Essex 4:41
Hard Rock Cafe: Classic Rock 1997
Various Artists
Rhino 9:07
Easyriders, Vol. 2 1997
Various Artists
Thump Records 10:07
Old Time Greats 1997 Repertoire 9:05
Roots of Rock: Southern Rock 1998
Various Artists
Rebound Records
Have a Nice Decade: The 70s Pop Culture Box 1998
Various Artists
Rhino 4:57
Chronicles: 70's Rock Classics 1998
Various Artists
Crimson Productions 6:14
The Essential Lynyrd Skynyrd 1998 Geffen / Universal / Universal Music 13:41
Harley Davidson Road Songs, Vol. 2 1998
Various Artists
Capitol 9:08
Extended Versions 1998 BMG Special Products 12:06
Skynyrd's First: The Complete Muscle Shoals Album 1998 MCA 7:26
No Image 1998
Various Artists
VH1
The Best of Country Rock 1999
Various Artists
Universal Special Products 4:09
Rock Ballads [Imprint] 1999
Various Artists
Universal Distribution
Millennium Classic Rock Party 1999
Various Artists
Rhino 5:00
20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Lynyrd Skynyrd 1999 Geffen 9:09
Outside Providence 1999
Original Soundtrack
Warner Bros. 9:09
Millennium Party [Rhino Box] 1999
Various Artists
Rhino 5:00
Superhits of Rock: 1965 - 1979 1999
Various Artists
L & D 6:00
Universal Masters Collection 1999 Universal 10:09
All Time Greatest Hits 2000 MCA / Geffen 14:23
Complete Lynyrd Skynyrd Live 2000 Calamari Records 13:32
Then and Now 2000 Silverline Records
Number One 70's 2000
Various Artists
PolyGram 4:20
Amplified 2000
Various Artists
UTV 9:07
Skynyrd Collectybles 2000 MCA 7:29
No Image 2000
Various Artists
Realm Records 9:08
Southern Rock Classics, Vol. 2 2001
Various Artists
BMG Special Products 12:12
No Image 2001 Hallmark Recordings
No Image 2001 Artisan Recordings
Southern Rock Classics 2002
Various Artists
BMG Special Products 12:12
Goin' South, Vol. 2 2002
Various Artists
Razor & Tie 4:42
Air Guitar 2002
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution
Ultimate Southern Rock 2003
Various Artists
Madacy 9:05
Thyrty: The 30th Anniversary Collection 2003 MCA 9:10
No Image 2003
Various Artists
Universal Distribution 9:01
While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Vol. 2 2003
Various Artists
Universal Distribution 9:10
Legends: Get It On 2003
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 8:03
Doc Rock presents Campfire Classics 2004
Various Artists
BMG International 9:08
VH1: I Love the '70s 2004
Various Artists
Rhino 4:59
Mustang 40th Anniversary 2004
Various Artists
Madacy 9:05
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas [Box Set] 2004
Original Game Soundtrack
Geffen 9:04
Karaoke: Southern Rock [Chartbuster Karaoke] 2005
Karaoke
Chartbuster Karaoke 9:13
Rock Chronicles: The Seventies 2005
Various Artists
Crimson Productions 9:05
Chronicles 2005 Geffen 11:09
Devil's Rejects [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack] 2005
Original Soundtrack
Hip-O 9:05
Essential 2005 Madacy Distribution / Madacy 12:09
Southern Rock: Gold [2 CD] 2005
Various Artists
Hip-O 9:11
This Is Southern Rock 2005
Various Artists
Cleopatra / Deadline / Universal 9:07
Ultimate Hits: Ultimate Southern Rock 2005
Various Artists
Madacy 9:05
This Is Mullet Rock 2005
Various Artists
Dead Line Music 9:07
Southern Cookin': All Time Greatest Southern Rock Hits 2006
Various Artists
American Beat Records 12:13
'70s: Gold 2006
Various Artists
Hip-O 4:42
Family 2006 Hip-O 9:11
Gold 2006 MCA / Geffen / Universal Distribution
Ultimate Collection 2006 Universal Distribution 9:11
Live from Austin TX 2006 New West
Monsters of Rock [EMI] 2006
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution
True Rock 2006
Various Artists
Spectrum Music / Universal 3:39
Goin' South Platinum Edition 2007
Various Artists
Razor & Tie 4:42
Lyve from Steel Town 2007 CMC International
No Image 2007
Various Artists
Politur
Southern Outlaws: The Ultimate Southern Rock Collection 2007
Various Artists
Cleopatra 9:07
20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection Live 2007 Geffen 13:58
Legends Informercial Set 2007
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 8:03
Die Ultimative Rock Box 2007
Various Artists
Brunswick 3:30
Colour Collection 2007 Spectrum Music 10:09
The Ultimate Rock Ballads Collection: Love Hurts 2007
Various Artists
Rhino 9:05
Rock Legends 2008 MCA 9:05
American Heartbeat: A Pulsating 80's Rock Collection 2008
Various Artists
Sony Music 4:45
The Best of Lynyrd Skynyrd: Green Series 2008 Strategic Marketing / Universal International 9:10
The Definitive Collection 2008 Universal International
The Complete Collection 2008 Geffen / Universal Music 9:10
Playlist Your Way 2008 Geffen 9:08
Greatest Hits [Island] 2008 Island 9:03
Driving Songs: The Ultimate Collection 2008
Various Artists
Ultimate / Ultimate Entertainment 3:30
100 Hits: Drive Time 2008
Various Artists
100 Hits 3:32
Christmas & Hits Duos 2008 Universal Distribution / Hip-O 14:23
Sweet Home Alabama: Rockpalast Collection [Video] 2008 Eagle Vision
Top of the Pop Hits, Vol. 1: The 70's 2008
Various Artists
Collectables 4:08
Another One from the Road 2008 Immortal 12:10
Free Bird: Tribute Tour 2009 Pickwick / Umbrella Entertainment
Authorized Bootleg: Live at Winterland, San Francisco Mar. 07 1976 2009 Geffen 12:47
Ultimate Collection: Dad 2009
Various Artists
Ultimate 3:32
Rarities Edition: One More from the Road 2010 Geffen 14:55
Live from Freedom Hall 2010 Loud & Proud/Roadrunner / Roadrunner Records
Icon 2 2010 Geffen 13:41
Southern Stars Shining 2010
Skynyrd Nation 2011 Roadrunner Records 12:11
Gods of Guitar [Universal] 2011
Various Artists
Universal Music Canada
Billy Connolly's Route 66: Music from and Inspired by the ITV Series 2011
Various Artists
UMTV 9:12
Live 2006 2011 IDS / Rock Tapes
Greatest Ever! Rock Guitars 2012
Various Artists
Greatest Ever 3:31
Now That's What I Call Classic Rock Hits 2012
Various Artists
Capitol
No Image
Various Artists
Strategic Marketing 9:10
Campfire Classics
Various Artists
Phantom Import Distribution
No Image
Various Artists
Phantom Records (England)
Latest & Greatest Rock Bands
Various Artists
Union Square / Union Square Music 3:31
No Image
Various Artists
Immortal
No Image
Various Artists
No Image
Various Artists
MCA
Rock 'N Roll All Nite
Various Artists
Somerset Entertainment 9:10
No Image
Various Artists
Wea
No Image
Various Artists
The  Old Grey Whistle Test 40th Anniversary
Various Artists
Rhino 3:30
No Image
Various Artists
Universal 3:33
No Image
Various Artists
Collectables 4:08
blue highlight denotes editor's pick