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Gregg Allman: The Other Side of this Life (Relix Revisited)

by John Swenson on March 21, 2014

This piece originally ran in the January_February 2011 issue of Relix.

Photo by Danny Clinch

When Gregg Allman was a young man, his restless soul led him into terrain that tested his limits. Pursued by demons while searching for angels, he never dwelled on the ground he stood on. His writing reflected his spiritual aspirations, so aptly expressed in the transcendent vision of “Dreams,” an Allman Brothers Band anthem and one of the greatest rock songs ever written.

The young Gregg had a voice that crackled with emotional wisdom, an instrument seemingly honed during many lifetimes. At a time when almost all white rockers attempted to sing the blues as if they were trying to put on an ill-fitting suit, Gregg sang with a voice that expressed infinite sadness and unimaginable pain. He was a phenomenal white blues singer – a budding artist whose imagination produced the tortured cry of “Whipping Post,” the anguish of “It’s Not My Cross to Bear” and “Black Hearted Woman,” and the lonely fugitive blues of “Midnight Rider.” Along with his brother Duane, and his great genre-defying band, Gregg interpreted the work of the blues masters with a finesse that only his most inspired contemporaries could match.

Now, Gregg is an aging man who’s packed multiple lifetimes of experience into his 63 years. After years of battling hepatitis C, he received a liver transplant last summer and has slowly made his way through a difficult convalescence.

“Oh, shit. I never knew that a pain like that existed,” he says from his home in Georgia a few days before returning to the road for the first time since the operation. “I’ve been to the pinnacle of pain. I’ve had enough pain to last me the rest of my life – just from the operation itself.”

1 of 4 pages

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