Lynyrd Skynyrd, Plane Crashes And The Fall Of Icarus

The quicker us pick Icarus to be a stinker of a pilot, but anyone that near the sun ain't no shrinking violet.

- Richard O'Brien, Ain't That to Die For

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Lynyrd Skynyrd, "What's Your Name"

Today marks the 33rd anniversary of the plane crash that killed Lynyrd Skynyrd singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines and four other people. The tragedy occurred just three days after the release of Street Survivors, and four days into the band's most successful tour at that time.

Plane crashes are one of the most mythic of rock and roll deaths. Something about them hallows the victims. Would Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens be as iconic today if they hadn't been cut down so young in so dramatic a fashion? Certainly the landscape of music would've been forever changed without them inspiring Don McLean's legendary lament in "American Pie."

Sure, the list of luminaries lost in air transit is full of talent sorely missed - Patsy Cline, John Denver, Randy Rhoads, Ricky Nelson - but why does the plane crash have such a hold on the imagination?

Lynyrd Skynyrd, "You Got That Right"

Part of it is the inherent innocence of the victim. It's not excess or hubris that takes out the star, but rather the cruel hand of fate itself. We can be assured that in almost every case, the victims didn't bring this upon themselves.

Rocks Off has another theory, though, one with its origins in the ancient story of Icarus. For those of you who didn't have to read the Edith Hamilton book in school, Icarus was the son of the famous architect and inventor Daedalus, who invented pretty much anything awesome built by the hand of man in Greek mythology.

By contrast, his son was a famous archer who helped Crete fight off the eggplant wizards while his dad was off building the labyrinth for King Minos. After the labyrinth was built, Minos decided Daedalus knew too much and imprisoned him and Icarus in a tower. Daedalus decided towers suck, and designed two pairs of wings for himself and Icarus out of feathers and wax.


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