Imagine pulling up a chair to get a first count history lesson in music. A relaxed evening, let’s say on a porch or in a backyard with some whiskey. Except in this case there is no whiskey.
Entirely ignorant to many bands from the past, I was turned on relatively recently to Eat a Peach, by the Allman Brothers. To gain some much needed perspective and a valuable history lesson, I jumped at the chance to read Gregg Allman’s My Cross to Bear.
Chronicling Allman’s life from the first time he picked up a guitar to the release of his most recent album, Low Country Blues, My Cross to Bear is a surprisingly compelling book. Written in an inviting and relaxed tone, it’s hard not to want to sit back and listen, or in this case, read. Allman is not sensationalist in any manner, although he’s lived quite the fascinating life. From his many marriages (Cher being one of them) to the tragic death of his brother Duane.
Consumed by guilt for spiraling through a haze of drugs and alcohol following Duane’s death, you feel the sense of weight being lifted from Allman’s shoulders as he relates his life story from the band's humble beginnings to their 1970s heyday and two break-ups, dealing with Hepatitis C, and kicking drugs and alcohol.
Despite dealing with his addictions most of his adult life, Allman never comes across as preachy or showy. His dalliance with substance abuse is told matter-of-factly rather than an attempt to glamorize the rock star myth. The only passion that is consistent and obvious, even through a substance-addled fog, is his passion for music.
It’s this passion for the music that keeps Allman’s writing focused and the reason I found My Cross to Bear such an engaging and informative read. Written like a transcript of a summer backyard conversation with a good friend over some beers, My Cross to Bear lays out Allman’s facts and allows the reader to draw their own conclusions. Allman has come into his own.
The greatest success for me in My Cross to Bear is a new found appreciation for a man and his band that I’ve never bothered to explore.