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Book Reviews

Gregg Allman: My Cross to Bear

By Published: May 13, 2012
Allman seems to know full well events might have transpired differently had he been, in line with his name as the surviving Allman Brother, more assertive of his point of view. Yet it's in keeping with his low profile of preference—as depicted in the famous Rolling Stone article by Grover Lewis, where he seemed to always defer to his elder sibling—and his description of being "picked" to be on the bus with 1989 bandmates guitarist Warren Haynes and Allen Woody: how does the namesake of a band get "picked" rather than choose a place for himself to travel on tour?

To be fair, Allman offers all the affection and admiration that's due for those he feels deserve it and it's those individuals, such as original ABB drummer Jaimoe, Haynes and lifelong mentor Floyd Miles, with whom he feels an unspoken connection. Likewise, his multiple marriages are predicated on an intuition of a sort that he ultimately learns to mistrust, but not until after the celebrity debacle of his relationship with Cher—where celebrity turned to notoriety—and the more positive development of relationships with offspring he hardly knew as children.

It's little surprise, then, that there's a lack of clarity in the denouement, such as it is, of My Cross to Bear. No doubt Allman is honest in his acceptance of the limits imposed by his age and physical infirmities, but his declaration that his life's "been a blast" sounds like he's trying to convince himself of something he doesn't quite believe. Likewise, after repeated allusions to financial mismanagement, or lack of it, during the period ABB began to taste success, he comes across self-serving, not to mention somewhat self-deceiving, in his recitation of a letter of gratitude to Phil Walden, the late owner and operator of Capricorn Records and the Allmans' manager. (Allman's reticence to name Kirk West as the curator of the Big House Museum is odd to say the least: "one of our long-time tour personnel" does not quite make it.)

But then dichotomy is Allman's life in microcosm. He's been a man at war with himself to the point of emotional paralysis, freed only by the power of the music he has made, in the form of songs he's written, recordings he's made and performances he's given. He strongly intimates such intervals are exactly those for which he is grateful to have survived and, in fact, constitute ample reward for the hardships he's endured. In a product of one of those moments of inspiration, a tune called "Old Before My Time," from The Allman Brothers' Hittin' The Note (Sanctuary, 2003), Allman vividly combines knowing reflection and world-weary acceptance. Such clearheaded perspective may be fleeting during My Cross to Bear, but Gregg Allman's concerted effort to be open cannot be denied.

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