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Scott Stewart, 57: Lynyrd Skynyrd's 'Free Bird'

Scott "Scooter" Stewart
Courtesy of Shannon Hunt
Scott "Scooter" Stewart

In March 2020, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. Two years later, more than a million people have died in the United States from the disease. To put a face on this number and pay respect to the departed, NPR asked our audience to share songs that reminded them of a loved one lost to COVID-19. What follows are individual stories of those who have passed, those mourning them and the songs that continue to unite them.

My "bonus dad," Scott "Scooter" Stewart of Shiloh, Ill., passed away in January 2021 from COVID complications. He was a mechanic.

"Free Bird" by Lynyrd Skynyrd has been the song all of Scott's loved ones associate with him and play in memory of him. Scott loved Southern and classic rock, and many of my childhood memories include spending days helping him (or getting in the way) as he worked on projects in the garage with the stereo blasting our local classic rock station, K-SHE. "Free Bird" was always one of his favorites, and he could really belt it out. Anytime he was out at the bar, he would play it over the jukebox, even paying extra money to have his selection skip to the front. Everyone knew Scooter was in the house when they heard that familiar guitar opening.

Almost as soon as they heard news of his passing, everyone he knew was sharing photos of themselves playing "Free Bird" and raising a glass in his honor. Everyone knew it was his song, and it was beautiful.

After his death, the song's lyrics took on new meaning for me. The opening words, "If I leave here tomorrow / Would you still remember me?" were ones he contemplated often. Over a year after the loss, it's very clear that not one person he met will ever forget Scott Stewart. I hear "Free Bird" all the time on the radio or out and about; it always makes me smile and think of him, and it's like he's still with me. He's as free as a bird now. —Shannon Hunt, "bonus daughter"

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: June 14, 2022 at 11:00 PM CDT
A previous headline and introduction to this interview misspelled Scott "Scooter" Stewart's last name as Steward.
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