The music will never go away. Skynyrd songs will be living on forever, so it's up to you to carry it on when we're all gone."
Johnny Van Zant is a philosopher, he jokes, as he speaks to the farewell tour of the venerable Southern rock band that has been his living for the past 31 years. Van Zant took up the mantle of lead singer in Lynyrd Skynyrd with the band's revival a decade after the tragic plane crash that killed Van Zant's older brother and original frontman Ronnie, as well as two other band members and their road manager.
‘Last of the Street Survivors Farewell Tour’
WHEN — 7 p.m. Sept. 28
WHERE — Walmart AMP in Rogers
COST — $39.50-$219.50
INFO — 443-5600, waltonartscenter.org/AMP
BONUS — The Marshall Tucker Band and Jason D. Williams will also perform.
"Thirty one years of my life, every year out playing the music that my brother wrote -- just carrying on their legacy -- and to think that we're not going to be out there like that is kind of a heavy thing," Van Zant shares. "The one thing about Skynyrd is that the music and the band's been kind of like life. Bad things happened to us and we just went, 'OK, let's do this.' But it's been my pleasure to be able to do this."
That gratification comes almost entirely from the fans, Van Zant says. That's the one thing the genial frontman never gets to talk about as much as he would like to -- how much their fans truly mean to the band.
"I [saw] a lady the other night -- my daughter passed away in January of cancer, she was 35 years old -- and I seen a lady down front, it just warmed my heart. She had a sign [that] said, 'Lynyrd Skynyrd got me through chemo.' And I went, 'Oh, my God. Is that a sign or what?'" Van Zant reflects. "You look at stuff like that. And we had a young boy up from Buffalo, N.Y., who was mentally handicapped, but he loved the band! And then we see the doctors and the lawyers -- so our fans are so well-rounded. It's every walk [of life].
"A lady the other day, she's 95 this year, and she came to see us the other night in Cleveland. And then you see the little kids," he continues. "Skynyrd music is generational. We say we're three generations bold, but hey, I think we're working on four. I think Skynyrd fans are hardworking, religious, God-fearing and patriotic people, you know what I mean? They love the country. I think that's what a Skynyrd fan is -- they're all in."
Another thing a lot of Skynyrd fans have in common is they're motorcycle lovers. So what better concert for the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion to land during Bikes, Blues & BBQ -- a weekend when more than 400,000 people are expected to descend on Northwest Arkansas for the bike rally?
"They're our people," Van Zant says upon being informed the band will perform during the rally weekend. He adds with a laugh, "Lynyrd Skynyrd and motorcycles and NASCAR, that all kind of goes together."
And even though the band is saying farewell to touring -- mainly in response to the declining health of some of its members -- Van Zant promises they won't completely fade away just yet. Certainly, the band expects to continue playing a charity event or two, some one-off concerts here and there and maybe even, Van Zant muses, a stint in Branson. Who knows?
"My preacher says, 'Don't say goodbye; say so long, until the next time.' And, to be honest, that's the way I kind of feel about this. It's not goodbye; it's never goodbye. Music will live on forever," he says. "There'll be a fifth generation, sixth generation, long after we're gone, who will be loving Lynyrd Skynyrd music. But it has its moments; there [have] been some times here on stage this year that I've teared up a little bit and went, 'Wow, this is unbelievable.' But I think anybody with a heart would feel that way."
NAN What's Up on 09/23/2018
Print Headline: It's Not Goodbye, It's So Long