Not long after writing a retrospective on Lynyrd Skynyrd, I happened on this film documentary– Gone with the Wind– about the band. Without knowing much about the film, I was thoroughly surprised by its depth and the care that went into making it; not just talking heads, or jarring, badly filmed footage of concert excerpts, it tells the story of Lynyrd Skynyrd from the earliest days, and includes interviews with some of the surviving members. Drummer Burns, who is featured in a number of interview clips, died earlier this year.
The film benefits from some pretty candid comments from Al Kooper, Ed King and several of the band’s friends and associates. It does a great job at giving you a better sense of who these guys- in particular, Van Zant- were and where they came from, culturally and musically; conveys the tortures of the road, of substance abuse, of Van Zant’s absolute control of the band, his drive to succeed despite a long history of rejection by the industry and his relentless quest to polish every note. (Al Kooper said he never worked with a band that was so rehearsed; every note was scripted). Van Zant was, according to the film, completely captivated by the sound of the band Free, and the style of its lead singer, Paul Rodgers. I had indirectly recognized, by listening, some elements that Skynryd seemed to share with Free, but the association was apparently far from accidental.
The pathos of the crash is downplayed; this isn’t a cheap grab for your heartstrings- but a really well crafted history of an important band and important part of American rock music history. You’ll get to see the band in the studios, on the stage and get exhausted vicariously by the pace they kept up. The flame that burns brightly….