One of the most commercially and critically successful of the so-called “Southern Rock” bands of the 1970s, Lyrnyrd Skynyrd recorded the phenomenally popular songs “Free Bird” and “Sweet Home Alabama,” along with “That Smell,” during the 1970s, the latter a fascinating critique the heroin addiction. Written by Ronnie Van Zant and Allen Collins, “That Smell” appeared on the group’s 1977 album Street Survivors, and lent the album its greatest sense of immediacy. Van Zant and Collins were inspired to write “That Smell” by the group’s over-indulgence in drugs and alcohol and the destructive effects that behavior was beginning to have, notably band member Gary Rossington’s car crash. While the October 20, 1977 plane crash that followed the release of Street Survivors and that killed Van Zant, Steve Gaines and Cassie Gaines of the band as well as the assistant road manager and the pilot and copilot, presumably had no linkage to drug or alcohol use, the coincidence in timing further lent the song an added feeling of death and finality.
Lynyrd Skynyrd continues to tour with new members added to replace those lost in the air crash, but, for some, the loss of Van Zant and the Gaines marked the end of the band’s legacy.