My Cross To Bear
Posted by: Gary Niebuhr
The fun goes out of reading and discussing a biography when the person featured is someone of whom you have one image and then discover another. In autobiography, especially today, it can get even worse. Iconic heroes become, well, people. And people have faults.
For me this is no more evident than when I read My Cross to Bear by Gregg Allman. Having grown up with this man’s music in all its forms through the time period in which it was produced, it came as no shock that some stimulants were involved in the creation of these songs. What is so disappointing, and one of the points that would be very discussable, is the relative ease these musicians ingested just about anything offered to them.
Drug and alcohol use may be major factors in one of the other revealing points in this book: denial. Allman has had disastrous relationships with women that read like a misogyny manual. While wives suffer through drug addiction (not his fault) and unhappy marriages to him (not his fault), he claims to love women second only to his music.
Most of the bands that Allman played in have had issues (not his fault), band members have committed suicide and overdosed (not his fault), while Allman played drunk, drifted in and out of rehabs, and missed concert dates, recording sessions and contractual obligations. But the most difficult passages to read are the ones dealing with his children, scattered all over the country, from various women, with whom he gives dismissive references about failed attempts at fatherhood and reconciliation (not his fault).
Perhaps the most interesting thing to discuss in this confessional is whether or not making great rock music is a “get out of jail card” for social behavior or is it just an excuse for behavior that borders on the sociopathic.
If you do chose to lead a discussion on this book, I would make one plea. None of the revelations in the book can deny the absolute power and magic of the music created by The Allman Brothers Band for that brief run in the early ’70s which is why the band is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. Play the opening tune from the At the Fillmore East recording (Rolling Stone’s number 49 best all time recording), “Statesboro Blues,” for your group to get an understanding of the appeal of this unique mixture of instruments, musicians and musical styles.
To renew my good feelings about the music of Gregg Allman, I am playing it right now REAL LOUD.