In memory of the Midnight Rider

It sucks that Gregg Allman is dead, but his memory conjures so many amazing jams that it’s really hard to be depressed when I think of his passing.

Gregg Allman graphic

I was searching for a good topic to cover in my semi-regular “letter from the editor” in last week’s edition of The West Side Journal. Usually, I write about whatever news event has set my blood to boil the most – and there have been a lot of those in recent weeks.

Most notably, 1) the murder of two Portland men who stood up to a lunatic white supremacist and 2) the election of soon-to-be Montana Congressman Greg Gianforte after he attacked a news reporter.

I know it’s cliche to start off like this, but I decided to not write about either of those topics. I spend too much time these days pissed off and afraid over things that I have no control over when I should, in reality, be grateful for so much more.

The world moves too fast to worry so much. So I decided instead to write about music.

As I write this, it is playing in the background. Since the news of Gregg Allman’s death came out last week I’ve had the Allman Brothers playing as much as possible.

A small angry dog is asleep on the couch next to me and I just pulled the last bottle of beer from the fridge.allman-brothers-capricorn-a

It’s a little after 1 a.m.

“Mountain Jam,” a 33-minute rock tune by the Allman Brothers is playing in the background.

This particular version of “Mountain Jam” was recorded live at the Filmore East in New York City in 1971. The album, “Live at the Filmore East” is, in my humble opinion, among the best albums from front to cover of all time.

…when the time came for a good old fashion Gregg Allman organ solo, the heavens wept. He could make thunder, lightning, fire and floods pour from the keys.

The first time I listened to it, my dad let me plug it into my portable CD player during a family road trip to California. The entire album seemed to orchestrate the ebb and flow of our 12-hour journey from Washington to California with a sound that teased everything I thought I knew about rock and roll.

Listening to it was like diving into an epic novel of which I was a main character.

So began my love for the Allman Brothers. The band captures the entire spectrum of Americana, from jazz, to country, to folk, to African roots.

While his brother Duane Allman may have been considered the frontman, Gregg was the soul of the band – at least to me. His voice could be soothing and soft in one track and then murderous and barking in the next. Best of all, he played the hell out of the electric organ.

As a teenager, I tried to emulate his sound on an 88-key Roland electric keyboard I lugged to and from jam sessions with my buddies. The key to the electric organ is always subtlety. When his brother Duane Allman and Dickey Betts were in the midst of a mind-shattering guitar riff-off, Gregg kept the pace with a steady wave of electric wash. And when the time came for a good old fashion Gregg Allman organ solo, the heavens wept. He could make thunder, lightning, fire and floods pour from the keys.

death-announcementMaybe one of my favorite songs of his was released in 1972, just a year after his brother Duane Allman was killed in a motorcycle accident, “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More.” The song was a reminder that we only have one life to live. We can choose to remain shut in from the world or we can embrace the good with the bad and live our lives without fear.

Such was my decision to write about Gregg’s life instead of the usual depressing drivel.

I was so filled with rage after Gianforte fiasco when he attacked that reporter and then tried victimize himself. Of course, he only apologized after he won the election. Likewise, the murder of two good samaritans for standing up to hate fills me with sadness that is hard to measure.

When I spend the day sifting through these headlines, I forget that the world is spinning before my very eyes. As hateful and scary as it all seems, the passing of Gregg Allman is reminder to live in the present. That feels like the best way to honor his memory.

It sucks that Gregg Allman is dead, but his memory conjures so many amazing jams that it’s really hard to be depressed when I think of his passing. I can’t imagine a better impression to leave on this earth than that.

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