Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Songwriter Allman has mastered lyrics, prose needs work
Despite a great deal of effort on his own part, Gregg Allman has been a feature on the rock music scene since the early '70s. A founding member, with his brother Duane, of the Allman Brothers Band, he has proven himself a songwriter of no small measure, a gifted vocalist and no slouch on the keyboard and guitar.
And so it is with no small frustration, if little surprise perhaps, that one reads his autobiography. Unfortunately, Allman is no master of prose, and the book screams for more editing.
In a manner reminiscent of Keith Richards' recent memoir, a significant majority of the book sounds dictated, or transcribed. We ought maybe to be grateful the text is peppered with "haha" or "chuckle, chuckle" (or their digital equivalent, "LOL").
These editorial failings are all the more striking given that Allman shares authorial credit with Alan Light, an American journalist and rock critic whose previous books include a history of hip-hop music and a biography of the Beastie Boys. It is difficult to know what role he played in the present writing, but one suspects not enough.
Leaving aside these criticisms, for those interested in rock history, or for fans of the band, this is an interesting, if all-too-familiar, story.
The rise to fame of the band from Macon, Ga,. is well documented, as are the riches, drugs and debauchery attendant on their success. Guitarist Dicky Betts comes off poorly, as, one suspects, would Allman in Betts's telling of their story.
Now 64, Allman likely is most famous to some for having once been married to the singer and actress Cher, and their brief but tempestuous relationship warrants a chapter.
Allman treats Cher with relative respect, but the same cannot be said of many of the other women who have the misfortune to be mentioned, usually in a manner more creepy than cool, more juvenile than adult.
In his defence, Allman apparently has come a long way. The drugs and booze are behind him, not least due to his near-death in 2011, around the time of his liver transplant (cirrhosis, due to tattoos, apparently).
He describes a touching relationship with his mother, and the book is dense with references to his idolized older brother Duane, who died young in an alcohol and drug-fuelled motorcycle accident in 1971.
The Allman Brothers Band was, and to some extent remains, a force to be reckoned with in rock music. Their Live at the Filmore East is a must in every collection, and so perhaps is Eat a Peach, the first post-Duane album.
Gregg's solo outings, likewise, are listenable. But in the Google age, when pictures are readily available for nothing, only the diehard fan will find this autobiography much more than a cross to bear.
Winnipeg physician Ted St. Godard is looking forward to reading a different book while listening to the Allman Brothers.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 12, 2012 J7
(1 of 23 articles for this week)