I was so annoyed. I was just a kid, I think I must have been 12 or 13 and I had been taken to see the movie Grease with my mother, somewhere in San Jose. I may have been 11. I know Grease was opening, and before the Movie there was a short documentary on Lynyrd Skynyrd. I had no idea who or what Lynyrd Skynyrd was. I wanted to see the movie Grease and the documentary seemed to go on forever, but it must have been half an hour or less. I only was able to pick out minor details, these guys were in a band, and they had all died or almost all of them had died in a plane crash. The film was mostly interviews with the members of the band before they had died. The documentary did not have any songs from Lynyrd Skynyrd or I would have been able to pick them out from hearing them on radio. Back then there was no Internet. No one had any idea what was going on. If you wanted to learn about a band, you had to buy music magazines or go to the main library downtown, and look at the magazines that they had stored on microfiche of newspaper articles. When I was older I attempted to research the band Devo by looking at microfiche and it was terrible. You had to look into a giant machine like a view master, and then scan the newspaper articles until you found the article you wanted. Then you literally had to take notes, if you wanted to save anything from the article. There may have been a print feature, which you had to ask the librarian to help you and pay for the copies.
So, I am watching this documentary on Lynyrd Skynyrd, and I am thinking, when will this be over? Since then I have come around, and now I would have wanted to watch the document on Lynyrd Skynyrd even more than Grease, and I look for time to time for this documentary, but I never find it. It may have been someone’s pet project or a submission for a degree in film, that someone was shown as a short subject at this particular independent movie house someone in Santa Jose which is likely torn down by now. It could have been film someone shot with the desire to make a documentary on Lynyrd Skynyrd that was full length while they were still alive, but was then shortened to a piece about the plane crash. I am not even sure the movie was Grease, that is how much I have forgotten so I am not sure of my age at the time. If I knew for sure the movie was Grease I could pin point my age at the time I saw the movie.
The plane crash happened on my Birthday, not only that there is much more. The band did not want to fly on this plane, it was unsafe. There were all kinds of warning signs and premonitions NOT to go. But, the lead singer Ronnie Van Zant insisted that, if God said it was your time you had to go. He thought he would die before 30 and maybe he wanted that to be true? It is all good to trust in God. But, does God want you to truly stupid dangerous things and then claim it was his will after bad things happen? One can see how totally insane and bizarre the whole affair of the crash was, if you read the new accounts of it, published by Rollingstone.
I don’t have any special insight to contribute to the history of Lynyrd Skynyrd, but I would like to find out the name of the documentary and the film makers name. At the time, the plane crash must have been on the news, but I am sure they did not show any footage from the crash due to respect and privacy. The crash also happened in a forest somewhere that was not easy for news crews to get to. In fact, normally a very dry news anchor would read the news. So, I literally did not know who Lynyrd Skynyrd was or that they had died, but I could recognize the songs on the radio. Considering something so significant and important as the magic of Lynyrd Skynyrd, words fail me as I attempt to describe the genius the music. But, the quality and the power of the tracks stand for themselves. When I got to high school, the students demanded at the closing song for each dance be Free Bird and if Free Bird was not the closing song, they threatened to riot in the gym. But, they always used Free Bird to close the dance in my Freshman and sophomore years.