October 20, 2012 is about 3 weeks away. It's a date Lynyrd Skynyrd fans know because it'll mark 35 years since a plane crashed in rural Mississippi, leaving Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines, Cassie Gaines, and several others dead.

And while it appeared to put an end to the rise of a southern rock band on the cusp of greatness, Lynyrd Skynyrd, itself, did not die in that crash. It lived on.

But now, 35 years later, Skynyrd's heritage and legacy is being called under the carpet. 

I'm 32. I wasn't alive when Skynyrd was in its heyday, but the band is without a doubt my favorite band.

Members of the band Lynyrd Skynyrd pose as they arrive to the 47th Annual Grammy Awards
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

I still remember seeing them with Johnny Van Zant at the helm and Billy Powell on the piano at the Borgata a few years back. It was awesome. They did 'Red, White and Blue' with a giant American flag behind them.

When that song ended, the lights went out. All the sudden a little dueling banjos over the PA. Then Johnny said, "the south gon' rise again."

Cue the lights, cue that unmistakable opening riff to 'Sweet Home Alabama," and cue the crowd losing its collective mind -- kids as young as teenagers who only know Ronnie as Johnny's older brother and adults old enough to have seen Ronnie stare at Steve on stage, live, in amazement. It was truly one of the greatest moments of life.

But what I never paid much mind to was the giant Confederate flag proudly waving behind the band as it tore into a song older than half the people in the crowd. I never paid any attention to the flag because I've always understood that it's just who the band is.

The latest incarnation of Lynyrd Skynyrd has recently caught some heat for wavering on its use of the 'Stars and Bars.' The band initially said it would stop using the flag. There was backlash for that. Now, the band says it'll keep using the flag. And, of course, there's backlash about that.

Gary Rossington, the band's guitarist, ultimately said the flag, for Lynyrd Skynyrd and their fans, represents heritage, not hate. They even posted this message on Facebook:


Here's my point: the flag has been something Lynyrd Skynyrd has used to identify itself for more than 35 years. No member of the band, and there have been a lot, has ever represented the flag as anything besides heritage. Nor has any member of the band ever said, sung about, or written about the hate that some people associate that flag with.

As a white man who has never lived in the south, my opinion doesn't hold much weight in this controversy. I know that. However, I have to imagine that fans of Lynyrd Skynyrd, whether they're white or black, young or old, American or foreign, don't think the band represents the evil associated with the flag. Those who link Skynyrd to that hatred, clearly know nothing about Lynyrd Skynyrd. For that reason, I applaud the band for not caving in to what people who don't know the difference between Skynyrd and the Marshall Tucker Band want.

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