Van Zant: What's Old Is New Again!
On July 1, 2016, Loud & Proud Records will release Red White & Blue (Live),a recently unearthed live Van Zant show recorded on January 28, 2006 at Wild Adventures Theme Park in Valdosta, Georgia. It is the only concert recording in existence from the only tour by brothers Johnny (Lynyrd Skynyrd) and Donnie (38 Special).
As the “First Family Of Southern Rock’s” fans have been requesting the return of the brothers, together, for quite some time, this album marks that very special return, right in time for a holiday that has epitomized the Van Zant demeanor from the very beginning- Independence Day. The title track , “Red White & Blue,” speaks of patriotism across the nation, infused by a very personal side of the Van Zant family history -- a father who served in Pearl Harbor the day it was bombed.
Johnny shared more of that family history during the hour we spent on the phone together along with conversation about the album, his life, his closeness with his brother Donnie, the impact of the loss of brother Ronnie, and his determination to keep his family first throughout his career. As Johnny put it, “I’ve never seen a u-haul follow a hearse.”
One of the most enjoyable conversations I have ever had the pleasure of engaging in, Johnny Van Zant made me feel right at home just as the Van Zants have always done with their fans through their music. Needless-to-say, as our chat drew to a close, I felt as if we had barely begun. I believe, you will feel the same upon reading the interview below.
What’s your personal mantra?
“If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.”
What can fans expect from Red, White & Blue (Live)?
We recorded it in 2006 to see if we were any good, then lost track of it. We found it a year ago. Donnie and I only did a select number of concerts together. This is one of them.
Is the release of Red, White & Blue (Live) a way to add your public voice and influence to the current political climate?
We did not coordinate the release of the album to this end. It just happens to have fallen this way. My life seems to have always played out in this way. “God’s plan,” I guess, that this album found its way into the election year.
Which song on this album is your personal favorite?
I can’t say. I don’t really have a favorite. I guess I like some more than others but all of the songs mean something to me.
Do you believe that country music is losing its strong “country/patriotic” roots today?
It is changing in a way but there is a lot of new country artists out there that I really like. I think ‘country music’ use to acknowledge the roots and founders of country music more than today, but that’s neither here nor there. Many of the current artists are breaking ground in ways that I truly like.
What about this country?
Yes...some people are. I feel that 911 was the last time I saw our country united. Since then, it seems, we’ve been consistently falling apart as a nation. I’m passionate about the United States. It’s been tough to watch the spiral. I’m a strict Republican, but whether Republican or Democrat, it is a very scary time for our country.
If this album does well, would you and Donnie consider going out on tour together again?
We will see. We are neighbors. We live right next door to each other. After Ronnie passed away, Donnie and I became my best friends.
Talk about July 17th. Explain what Ohio can expect from Lynyrd Skynyrd that night?
We are playing the Republican National Convention. I expect it to be an exciting night. I am passionate about this country and our troops. My participation in this event gives me the opportunity to show this.
Share a social cause or cause-based organization close to your heart.
Lynyrd Skynyrd donates one dollar to a variety of charities - Autism, Crohns, St. Judes, Diabetes, etc.
When all is said and done, how do you want to be remembered?
As a good dad, husband, and friend.
Truth-be-told, I am hoping that the release of Red, White & Blue (Live) brings the boys back together in the studio and on the road. Johnny and Donnie Van Zant share a sound and synergy unique to them in “country” and in THIS “country.” They represent the roots that made this nation great long ago -- many of which we need to replant today to carry on in the same manner. A re-emergence between them can only help to usher in a brighter tomorrow for all Americans.
(And, personally, it will give me the opportunity to chat with Johnny again -- something I look, very much, forward to doing and sharing with you. He’s a sweetheart you can’t help but love.)
Many thanks to Johnny Van Zant and 37-Media for making this interview possible