First MERLE, Now Yet ANOTHER ICONIC ROCK STAR HAS PASSED AWAY …

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VIA| In 1977, when Jimmie Van Zant was just a young man, his cousin Ronny Van Zant famously perished in a plane crash. In the decades that followed, Jimmy helped keep his cousin’s legacy alive by performing many of Ronnie’s Lynyrd Skynyrd songs live and helping promote Southern rock.

“It is with a very heavy heart that we inform you that Jimmie Van Zant has passed away today holding his wife’s hand. His very close friends, Steve & Sue Prindel were alongside Jimmie & Zohra, as Jimmie transitioned. We ask that you keep Jimmie, Zohra and all of his loved ones in your thoughts & prayers,” Jimmie’s Facebook page reported this week.

“We also ask that you respect their need for privacy in this very sad and difficult time. Thank you. God bless you and let the Freebird Fly !!!”

It is with a very heavy heart that we inform you that Jimmie Van Zant has passed away today holding his wife's hand. His…

Posted by Jimmie Van Zant on Thursday, April 7, 2016

Van Zant had been battling cancer for several years and died in hospice care. He last performed live in 2014.

In an interview before he died, Van Zant explained the trials and tribulations of carrying his famous surname.

“First of all, it’s my family, so I am very glad to be a part of it,” Van Zant told Billboard.

“There’s a brand name, but there is to be expected quality, and we try to deliver that. It gets tough sometimes. I get messages on Facebook saying I’m riding off of coat tails, but it’s no different than if your dad had a restaurant or a car dealership. Before he passes on, he tells you to carry it on. Do you want to sell out? No, it’s priceless. That’s something you can’t buy.”