Posted on 10.20.2017

Reflections - Soapbox Rewind

As mentioned last week, Charlie is cutting back to one a week until after the book release rush. Since today is the 40th Anniversary of the tragic Lynyrd Skynyrd plane crash, we thought we would revisit this soapbox from 2009.


It was October in St. Louis town
When we heard that the free bird had fell to the ground
And we all said a prayer before we went down to play
And Ronnie my buddy above all the rest
I miss you the most and I loved you the best
And now that you’re gone I thank God I was blessed
Just to know you

Lyrics from the song reflections by Charlie Daniels.

October 20, 1977.

We were backstage at Keil Theater in St. Louis getting ready to go on in front of a sold-out house when we got the word about the Lynyrd Skynyrd plane crash.

The news was scant and general, the media was saying there had been a plane crash and there had been fatalities, but would not release the names of the ones who had been killed pending notification of the next of kin.

We went on stage that night knowing that we had lost some friends but not knowing who they were or the extent of the injury of the survivors and it was a dark feeling.

I had the whole band come into the dressing room upstairs and we had a silent prayer before we went down to do our show. I knew everybody was feeling strange, and I told the guys before we went on stage that if that had been us in the plane crash we wouldn’t have want Skynyrd to blow their show and that they wouldn’t want us to blow ours.

We would go out and do our show, which we did.

I don’t even know how long we played that night but we leaned into the music taking solace in the only way we had available to us.

The music community, especially the one we operated in, is very small. You know everybody and everybody knows you and even though you only see each other occasionally you develop friendships that go deep and last, and when that number is reduced by even one it hits hard.

We played our show and went back to the hotel still not knowing who the fatalities were. I was not to find out until about two o’clock in the morning that my worst fear had come true.

Ronnie Van Zant had died in the plane crash.

I was devastated. I was staying in St. Louis that night and catching a plane the next morning traveling around the country doing promotion for a new album we had just released.

We immediately started getting calls from radio stations wanting a comment about the tragedy, but I just didn’t know what to say. No matter where I went or what I did there was a dark cloud hanging over my head. It was hard to think about anything else for very long without returning to the fact that I’d lost a friend.

Phoenix, Arizona was also on my promotion tour, and when I arrived in the afternoon, I walked into my room, took a pen and a piece of hotel stationary and sat down and wrote this.

A brief candle both ends burning
A weary mile a bus wheel turning
A friend to share the lonely times
A handshake and a sip of wine
So say it loud and let it ring
That we’re all part of everything
The present future and the past
Fly on proud bird you’re free at last

I had my statement to the media and I had my closure and peace. I had done the only thing I knew to do, commemorate my friend in words. We would also use this as the dedication for the Million Mile Reflections album.

Ronnie, my buddy, I’ll never forget you and the gift of the music you left us.

Rest in peace old friend.

What do you think?

Pray for our troops, and for our country

God Bless America

— Charlie Daniels


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