October 17, 1977: Lynyrd Skynyrd Releases ‘Street Survivors’
In classic rock history, there are few albums quite as tragic as Lynyrd Skynyrd’s fifth studio album, Street Survivors.
Released on October 17, 1977, the album was a brilliant step forward musically for the band, particularly on “That Smell.” But just three days later on October 20, Skynyrd would board a charter plane in South Carolina en route to Louisiana that would crash in Mississippi killing singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines and backup singer Cassie Gaines. Assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick, pilot Walter McCreary and co-pilot William Gray would also perish in the crash.
In the all too common phenomenon, the deaths of Van Zant and Steve and Cassie Gaines brought unprecedented publicity to the band and Street Survivors, which would be certified Gold (500,000 copies sold) just ten days after its initial release and eventually go double platinum. The original artwork for the album, which showed Skynyrd standing before buildings engulfed in flames, was pulled and replaced with a similar shot of the band with a solid black background.
More than the shocking plane crash, Street Survivors serves as a reminder of what could have been for the beloved southern band, and that’s a pain that’s still felt by the Skynyrd faithful to this day.