On the shelf: ‘My Cross to Bear’ by Gregg Allman

By Lisa Boss

Grand Rapids Public Library


Born in 1947, Allman looks back on a long life, having beaten the odds, so to speak. In a career field where sex and drugs are ubiquitous, he stood out with six ruined marriages and decades of heroin, coke and alcohol addictions. In 1995, after an embarrassing speech at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Gregg went into his last rehab. In 2010 his liver had deteriorated so badly from the Hepatitis C that he received a transplant. But wait, it’s not all bad news!


His memoir is a fascinating chronicle of the twists and turns of the Allman Brothers band, forging a new sound back in the sixties — “southern rock”, a mix of blues, rock and country. It’s also an honest, revealing look at a man remembering a life filled with triumphs and failures. Some of the material about his mom and brother Duane is just kind of heartbreaking, and the photos underscore the sense of love and loss.


An interesting twist for me was that when I had finished the book, I checked out the library’s collection of Allman Brothers music, and found that I really liked the CD, Low Country Blues — that Allman recorded at the age of 63 — best. He went back to the blues roots that he loved, and the tracks have that haunting, powerful sound. So, maybe getting clean and finding religion was the best thing he ever did musically…