Lynyrd Skynyrd (Pronounced 'Lĕh-'nérd 'Skin-'nérd) was released as a debut album 50 years ago on August 13, 1973. The album launched Lynyrd Skynyrd across the US and to a worldwide audience. It was very successful for a first release and contained four of their five most popular songs.
The band seemed to appear out of nowhere and into the charts then. But like many groups, their apparent overnight success came after years of hard graft. They first emerged as My Backyard in 1964 and went through a few name revisions before reaching their final title of Lynyrd Skynyrd in 1969.
The band’s name was based on their high school PE teacher Leonard Skinner. It seems they felt the need to explain how to pronounce their name when titling their debut album.
Lynyrd Skynyrd (Pronounced 'Lĕh-'nérd 'Skin-'nérd) was recorded in just over a month at studios in Georgia. The band laid down a number of tracks they’d been playing live for some time. With the songs being well known to them already and backed by a short practice period in Jacksonville beforehand, the recording sessions went very well.
The album was quite a triumph; it peaked at no 27 on The Billboard 200 and was the band's third most successful album based on weeks on The Billboard 200 charts. It ranks behind two of their hits compilations, All Time Greatest Hits from 2013 and The Best Of Lynyrd Skynyrd: 20th Century Masters from 1999.
Top tracks on Lynyrd Skynyrd debut album
Many of the tracks from the album remained firm favorites afterward. In particular, “Freebird” is a song many rock fans will recognize and love, especially when performed live. Timed at over nine minutes long on the album, a shorter and under five minutes version was a hit single when released late in 1974. “Freebird” is usually seen as the top track on their first album, but other standout tracks are still very popular today.
“Simple Man” from the first album takes third place on the band's top downloads list on Spotify. Just under 390m downloads has it ranking only behind “Freebird” with 530m and of course, “Sweet Home Alabama” in top spot with 1,133m The download numbers for “Simple Man” will have had a boost by the song featuring on top TV shows The Sopranos and Californication.
Fourth on that Spotify list, and again from this first album, is “Gimme Three Steps,” with around 169m downloads. Based on a real-life incident where lead singer Ronnie Van Zant had a gun pulled on him in a Florida bar, the song has remained another favorite of their fans.
The fifth spot on the list remarkably goes to a fourth track from the album, “Tuesday’s Gone,” with 112m Spotify downloads. It’s often seen as one of rock music's first power ballads.
Although the lineup has changed dramatically over the years, especially impacted, of course, by the horrific air crash in 1977, a version of the band continues to play live. Currently part of The Sharp Dressed Simple Man Tour with ZZ Top, Lynyrd Skynyrd still features those great four tracks from that first album on their current setlist.
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