I have written several entries when artists have passed away over the years. Every one of them have been important to me in different ways. Shaping my philosophy, making me think, while at the same time providing my life with beautiful music that sticks in my mind. There have been a lot of them but some stand a head over the majority of them. John Lennon, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Warren Zevon and Ray Charles along with John Coltrane and Johnny Cash.
Gregg Allman with his brother Duane took the old rock/blues sound to a whole different level and different direction. You can tell if it is an Allman Brothers song or a Gregg Allman song with in the first few notes, the sound was that distinctive. Duane died after the release of the classic album "Live At The Fillmore East" and Gregg had a huge decision to make. He decided to keep the band, and its music going. As more of the country discovered Gregg Allman and the boys there came from the country the definition of a new music genre which they called southern rock. Southern rock took the basics of rock, blues, jazz and country and melded them into a brand new sound. More southern rock bands would crop up to follow the Allman Brothers but none ever matched them.
Gregg Allman was an innovator. He was one of the few acts around that were better live than they were in the studio. They seemed to step it up a notch when playing for a crowd that were totally drawn into their music. Gregg Allman played the organ for the most part but it was his arrangement of songs and the voice he put to those arrangements that made him so great. As an example of this was a song written by Jackson Browne called "These Days". It was a good song by Browne, a rock ballad that seemed to be Browne's best work. Gregg Allman arranged the song into a heavy sad blues number that with his distinct voice made it a favorite on the play lists at concerts.
There are many good blues singers but the number of great blues singers and blues voices are few and far between. Gregg Allman was a great blues singer. He put his very soul into every song he sang and the songs he sang of were of life. His life. All of our lives. He had a way of connecting to those who came to hear him. I saw Gregg Allman perform but once, and let me tell you, his performance would grab your heart, your soul and you would be mesmerized until the number was finished. Sometimes you would swear you forgot how to breathe while he was singing his songs.
Gregg Allman passed away this week at the age of 69. A lot of the greats seem to be dying rather young. It has been suggested to me that, well, they had lived a life, a hard life filled with drugs and alcohol, abusing their bodies at a young age and sometimes those things catch u to you. This was certainly the case for Gregg Allman.
Gregg Allman is gone and so the Allman Brothers Band is gone and without the Allman Brothers, there can be no more southern rock. Gregg Allman so defined the genre that it died with him. There are plenty of southern rock bands that followed Gregg and Duane, but they are living in the past, not creating anything new. Gregg Allman was still putting out new music. Some of it was his and some were long forgotten blues numbers that he touched with his special magic of soul and blues.
Gregg Allman is gone. His last album he released was last year. It was a live recording of a performance in Macon, Georgia which was the base for the band for all these years. With the history of the Allman Brothers Band and Gregg Allman as a solo artist, it seems somehow fitting that his last album would be a live album.
That is the way it should be and the way he should be remembered. A singer of the people, for the people live, not shacked up in a studio. It was at those times when he was at his best.
Gregg Allman will always be included at the top of my list as one of the pure greats.