I’ve long been a sucker for a good rock & roll documentary. I’ve watched dozens — if not hundreds — over the years and almost always find something to love about each and every one. The sublime “Gone With the Wind: The Remarkable Rise and Tragic Fall of Lynyrd Skynyrd” certainly ranks among my favorite rock docs. As the title suggests, it traces the career of the famed Southern rockers from their early days in Jacksonville, Fla., clear through to the 1977 plane crash that claimed the lives of frontman Ronnie Van Zant and two other band members.
Utilizing rare archival footage and revealing interviews with former Skynyrd band members, producer Al Kooper, contemporaries and music journalists, the sprawling 163-minute film may well be the definitive documentary about the Hall of Fame band. I found myself completely engrossed in the stories of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s early days and how they became an “overnight success” after plugging away on the fringes for the better part of a decade.
The band’s five studio albums — 1973’s “(pronounced ‘lĕh-‘nérd ‘skin-‘nérd),” 1974’s “Second Helping,” 1975’s “Nuthin’ Fancy,” 1976’s “Gimme Back My Bullets” and 1977’s “Street Survivors” — are discussed and dissected to great effect, as is 1976 double-live set “One More From the Road.” The film also addresses the various lineup changes, battles with drugs and alcohol abuse, leading up to that fateful plane crash. The first-hand accounts of the crash by those who survived it, is chill-inducing.
The best indication that “Gone With the Wind” is a winner? I feel like I know more about a band whose contributions are far greater than “Free Bird” and “Sweet Home Alabama.” (Jeffrey Sisk)