After 40-odd years of prominently featuring the Southern Cross flag of the old Confederacy as part of its schtick, suddenly the southern rock band Lynyrd Skynrd is denouncing the banner claiming it is a symbol of racism.
Sole surviving original band member, Gary Rossington, explained why the band was dumping its long-time use of the Southern Cross flag (often mistakenly called "The Stars and Bars") in an interview with CNN's Fredricka Whitfield in an episode of the cabler's Face to Face entertainment segment.
It became such a issue, you know, about race and stuff, where, we just had it, in the beginning because we were southern and that was our image back in the '70s and late '60s because they kinda branded us from being from the south so we showed that.
But I think through the years, you know, people like the KKK and skinheads and people have kind of kidnapped the Dixie or Rebel flag from the southern tradition and the heritage of the soldiers, you know, that's what it was about. And they kinda made it look bad in certain ways. So, we didn't want that to go to our fans or show the image like we agreed with any of the race stuff or any of the bad things.
Bandmate Johnny Van Zant went on noting that they all grew up "loving the old Blues artists," and other black musicians and they "just didn't want to be associated with that particular (racist) thing."
Rossington summed it up saying, "We're proud to be American and we wanted to show our American flag."
Some fans were not too pleased with the band's CNN interview. In response to the backlash Rossington came out quickly asserting that he never said they wouldn't use the Confederate flag and that it will still be featured in their concerts.
Rossington issued this statement on the band's website:
I wanted to clarify the discussion of the Confederate Flag in our recent CNN interview. Myself, the past members and the present members (that are from the South), are all extremely proud of our heritage and being from the South. We know what the Dixie flag represents and its heritage; the Civil War was fought over States rights.
We still utilize the Confederate (Rebel) flag on stage every night in our shows, we are and always will be a Southern American Rock band, first and foremost. We also utilize the state flag of Alabama and the American flag as well, ‘cause at the end of the day, we are all Americans. I only stated my opinion that the confederate flag, at times, was unfairly being used as a symbol by various hate groups, which is something that we don’t support the flag being used for. The Confederate flag means something more to us, Heritage not Hate …
The band's newest album is titled, "Last of a Dyin' Breed."