Monday, May 29, 2017
By now most of us know that fame, money, and accomplishments don't make for an easy life. An insulated one, maybe; a "pass" on behavior that might get the rest of us locked up, probably; a sense of freedom from the decisions "normal" people face every day, certainly.
Gregg Allman never had it easy. He endured more personal tragedy than anyone ought to; that at least half of it was self-induced doesn't make any of it less grim, nor does the evidence that he was strong enough, eventually, to overcome all, or almost all, but that last enemy itself.
If you grew up south of Mason and Dixon forty-odd years ago, chances are Gregg's and his brother Duane's band, the Allman Brothers, was a major part of your life. Unlike the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and the other British bands, unlike the legends of California psychedelia, the Brothers weren't iconic, larger-than-life figures. They were guys like us, something akin to a group of slightly older cousins and their buddies, who discovered they had the skill and the drive to play with the big boys-- and to knock their socks off. "The best band I ever heard," said the late promoter Bill Graham, who heard 'em all.
A natural sideman, composer, and arranger, Gregg Allman, like Robbie Robertson of the Band, was forced into a frontman/spokesman role by dint of circumstance and by a vacuum of leadership in his group. Like Robertson, by doing so he caused friction and resentment among the men who were his closest friends; unlike him, he handled it in spectacularly awful fashion and the tabloids had a field day. Yes, he overcame it. Eventually. The band was never the same, but the music carried on. Gregg Allman got into music because he wanted to play the blues. Like many before him, he ended up living them out, money and fame and accomplishment notwithstanding.
Perhaps Gregg's most ridiculed effort was the 1970s album he put out with then-wife Cher: "Two The Hard Way." Prophetic, though, in that the hard way seemed to be Gregg Allman's only way.
News reports say the last song he performed was "One Way Out." He couldn't have picked a more appropriate number to say farewell.
Rest in peace, Brother Gregg Allman.