My Cross To Bear
Good morning, y’all. The rains yesterday have produced a more conducive environment for those of us with lungs. While pollen time is not over, perhaps we’ll have a couple of days of rainfall to take care of the rest of it. Since last night’s storm I find that I’m down to about 12 CPM, that’s Coughs Per Minute, from a high of 60 CPM or so last week. I’d love to get that back to 0 CPM as soon as possible.
While “sheltering in place”, God I love that phrase, I followed up my Allman Brother’s revival by reading Gregg Allman’s biography, “My Cross To Bear”. I can’t say that I’m a big fan of rock star’s biographies. I read “Slow Hand” by Eric Clapton years ago, and it said pretty much what I thought it would say. Poor kid, smart, but bad in school, found an outlet in music and exploited his talents until he was wealthy enough to become a drug addict. Some really cool stuff happened along the way, and through pictures that were taken and interviews of other people that were there, he remembers the cool things. Don’t do drugs.
Well, I can’t say that Gregg Allman’s book is much different. There are some historical items worth mentioning, though. There was quite a bit of crossover with the Allmans and Eric Clapton. Most specifically, on the iconic “Layla” album. There were also some shared gigs where the Allman Brothers and Eric Clapton and his band would play at the same venue. The fact that Derek and the Dominoes were stuck until Duane Allman arrived is well documented. It was Duane who provided the intro to “Layla” and all of the slide guitar work on the album.
In those days, the raging debate was who was the best lead guitar, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton or Duane Allman? Like a friend of mine used to say, “the best damn guitar player that ever lived, died on October 29th, 1971 in Macon, Georgia”. I can’t say that I disagree. In fact, in his autobiography, Eric Clapton refers to Duane Allman as being the best guitarist he’s ever seen. Rolling Stone magazine ranks Duane Allman as number two behind Jimi Hendrix. If he was not the best, he was darn close, and we can only imagine what his loss did to the rest of the band. We can begin to imagine what effect Duane’s death played in Gregg’s subsequent addiction to drugs and alcohol. Gregg helps us out by writing about 19 chapters detailing the loss.
I’m going to draw a hard line here. I know the boys were drinking and drugging before they became famous. There really is no other way that is going to turn out. The unknowns are if you are going to run out of money, or luck, first. Gregg talks often about giving up on the band and becoming a dentist or something. It is somewhat a recurrent theme, Gregg was bright, could accomplish a lot, but chose to follow his muse instead. The fact that his muse required a state of inebriation to be channeled says a lot to me. Thank God he didn’t become a dentist. Using his songwriting regimen as a metaphor, Dr. Gregg would need a bump of heroin to do a filling.
Gregg loved women, so much so that he married six times. I can’t say that all of the women didn’t bear some responsibility in the failures, even Cher. Gregg has appeared to be unapologetically himself. The women who chose him as a mate thinking that they would change him were naive at best. At worst, they were the groupies that were portrayed in the movie “Almost Famous”, which was about the Allman Brothers. These women elevated their status from “road wives” to housewives, to ex-wives. Gregg clearly had issues with women.
Gregg’s relationship with a higher power comes after Gregg’s near death experience. Gregg has had a liver transplant because of the cancer that was found metastasizing there. Gregg spends the last chapter of his book explaining the clarity that he has now that he is sober, and his feeling of peace with the universal consciousness. Being old and sober will do that to you.
It’s an interesting thing to dislike someone as a person while worshipping their music. I’m going to ponder on that while I give tribute to Gregg for writing one of the great songs of all time, named after a little girl in a 7-11.