‘Billy Powell on the piano …’

The news that another member of Lynyrd Skynyrd has died comes as a bit of a surprise, yet as no surprise.

Keyboard player Billy Powell, gone Wednesday at 56. Heart problems.

What caught me about Powell’s passing was that he was 56 — just five years older than I am. I’ve been listening to Skynyrd since high school, and it somehow seems impossible that we should be so close in age. We forget how young Skynyrd was then.

I could go on, but I won’t. Everyone knows Powell’s elegant work on “Free Bird.” There was more.

As Ronnie Van Zant says at the 2:24 mark of our first tune, “Billy Powell on the piano …”


“Honky Tonk Night Time Man,” Lynyrd Skynyrd, from “Street Survivors,” 1977.


“Things Goin’ On,” Lynyrd Skynyrd, from “Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd,” 1973.


“Whiskey Rock-A-Roller,” Lynyrd Skynyrd, from “One More From The Road,” 1976. Of all the original Skynyrd tunes, this is the only one co-written by Powell. It originally was the last cut on 1975’s “Nuthin’ Fancy,” but Powell’s piano was lost deep in the mix. It fares better in this live recording.

And once more, at 2:39 of this tune, “Billy Powell on the piano …”

“Call Me The Breeze,” Lynyrd Skynyrd, from “One More From The Road,” 1976. Please forgive the skip just before Ronnie Van Zant’s intro to Powell’s terrific solo, which lasts more than a minute and a half. It originally was the last cut on 1974’s “Second Helping,” but there’s more of Powell on the live track.

One of the great live albums, recorded at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta in July 1976.

If you’re wondering what comes next for Lynyrd Skynyrd — which has guitarist Gary Rossington as the only original member left in today’s lineup — this story from the Jacksonville Times-Union explains it.


Filed under January 2009, Sounds

2 responses to “‘Billy Powell on the piano …’

  1. Pingback: R.I.P. Billy Powell…Four From Lynard Skynard « Rock God Cred

  2. Boy, lots of the fellas seem to be passing on lately, eh? Sad songs all around . . .

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