Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about music and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the movie urban legends featured so far.
MUSIC URBAN LEGEND: Ronnie Van Zant had a closed casket at his funeral because of the severe injuries he suffered in the plane crash that took his life.
Lynyrd Skynyrd was one of the hottest bands in all of rock ‘n’ roll from 1973 to 1977 as their first five albums delivered a number of top hits, inculding “Freebird,” “Sweet Home Alabama,” and “What’s Your Name?”
Their dynamic lead singer was Ronnie Van Zant…
Tragically, right when their popularity was peaking with the release of their fifth album (their only top five album of their career), the band’s touring airplane crashed in Mississippi on route to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The crash killed Van Zant and Steve Gaines, the band’s newest member (as well as Gaines’ sister, a back-up singer in the group) plus both pilots and the band’s assistant road manager.
At Van Zant’s funeral, his casket was closed to viewers. This has led to a number of rumors over the years that Van Zant’s body was so disfigured during the crash that they couldn’t fix his appearance for his funeral.
Is that true?
As it turns out, though, the closed casket was due to an entirely different reason. Van Zant’s widow, Judy, recalled Ronnie talking about what he’d like (and wouldn’t like) at his funeral and one thing he specifically mentioned was that he didn’t like the idea of people “gawking” over him.
Everyone in the plane was seated with their seatbelts on except Van Zant, who had been sleeping on the floor of the plane. So when the plane crashed into a tree, Van Zant was sent flying and he slammed into the tree, dying due to blunt force trauma to his skull. The blow resulted in a small bruise on his forehead but that was the only visible damage Van Zant received in the crash. His wife noted that he just looked like he always did, just sleeping.
The legend is..
Thanks to the Lynyrd Skynyrd History Website for valuable information about the group.
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