Gregg Allman, the singer and organist for the Allman Brothers Band and progenitor of the blues-inflected genre of Southern rock, has died. He was 69.
According to a statement on his official website, Allman died peacefully at home in Savannah, GA. He had battled health problems for many years and had undergone a liver transplant in 2010 after a diagnosis of hepatitis C.
Michael Lehman, Allman’s longtime manager, called his close friend “a brilliant pioneer in music. He was a kind and gentle soul with the best laugh I ever heard. His love for his family and bandmates was passionate as was the love he had for his extraordinary fans. Gregg was an incredible partner and an even better friend. We will all miss him.”
Allman founded the Allman Brothers Band with his older brother Duane, a guitar master, and the group blended a stew of influences with virtuoso musicianship, their legendary live shows inspiring generations of musicians from other Southern rockers like Lynyrd Skynyrd to jam groups like Phish. Duane Allman died in a motorcycle accident in 1971, shortly after the band’s legendary performances at Bill Graham’s Fillmore East in New York City. Those shows spawned The Allman Brothers Band at Fillmore East, which became one of the most celebrated rock albums of all time. For years, the Allman Brothers Band in its later iterations played a residency of sold-out concerts every year at NYC’s Beacon Theatre.
The hard-rocking, hard-living group also caught the attention of Hollywood. The band’s signature songs – from their own “Ramblin’ Man” and “Whipping Post” to standards like “Statesboro Blues” – were beloved of directors from Martin Scorsese to Ang Lee. Gregg was married to Cher in the mid-1970s, and they have a son, Elijah Blue. Cher posted numerous times to Twitter in tribute to Allman (see below), saying in part, “words are impossible.”
And for many, his death will conjure tragic memories of indie film Midnight Rider, which was to star William Hurt as Allman. The film’s Jessup, GA, location was the site of an on-set accident that killed Sarah Jones, 27. On the first day of filming, Jones was killed and other crew members were seriously hurt when shooting on a train trestle was interrupted by an actual train. A judge later ruled that producers had never secured permission to shoot on the trestle from CSX, which operates the train tracks, and did not relay that fact to cast and crew resulting in a criminal case against the film’s managing crew. Civil lawsuits in the case are ongoing.
Plenty of dark shadows followed the band through its five decades of fame, with one of the biggest setbacks being leader Duane’s death in a motorcycle crash at the beginning of their stardom. A year and two weeks later, bassist Berry Oakley died in a motorcycle crahs just three blocks from where Duane Allman was killed. The band and its changing roster faced numerous trials from addiction, health woes and heartbreak over the years, channeling their emotion into such timeless classics as “Whipping Post,” “Melissa” and “Midnight Rider.” Founding drummer Butch Trucks, whose nephew Derek Trucks spent several years in the latter-day ABB, died in January.
Gregg Allman also had an up-and-down solo career with a half-dozen albums highlighted by 1987’s I’m No Angel, whose title track was an FM smash and remains a staple of classic rock radio.
Allman is directly survived by his wife, Shannon Allman, children Devon, Elijah Blue, Delilah Island Kurtom and Layla Brooklyn Allman, and three grandchildren.
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