Home Music Music Lists

Gregg Allman: 20 Essential Songs

Southern rock pioneer fused country blues with San Francisco-style extended improvisation, creating a template for countless jam bands

The question “Can white men sing the blues?” has been debated for decades, especially once earnest white kids began taking a crack at the music in the 1960s. But in the case of Gregg Allman, no one ever raised the question. It wasn’t simply a matter of his husky, often pained voice and the genuine sense of despair, desperation and boastfulness conveyed by it. 

It was also a reflection of the tragedy that haunted Allman’s life, from the murder of his father when Gregg was two years old to the motorcycle accidents that took the lives of his brother Duane and Allman Brothers Band member Berry Oakley a year apart in the 1970s.

Add in the impact of fame, celebrity, chemical temptations and divorces, especially with dealing with a relatively shy person like Allman, and he more than earned his right to sing the blues. “You’ve got to consider why anybody wants to become a musician anyway,” Allman told Rolling Stone in 1973. “I played for peace of mind.” Here are some of those moments, where Allman hopefully did alleviate his inner burdens with song.

Play video

“Just Another Rider” (2011)

Produced by T-Bone Burnett, Allman’s 2011 solo album Low Country Blues was yet another unexpected return to form, and its sole original – co-written by Gregg and Haynes – captured the way Gregg could summon up the old evocative power. Sung in a voice deeper and more seen-it-all than ever before, and driven by a horn-imbued arrangement that recalled Laid Back, “Just Another Rider” was an apt, age-aware sequel of sorts to “Midnight Rider”: “Remind you to take it slow/One step at a time, baby.” 

Play video

“Who to Believe” (2003)

Gregg summons up his lung power – and his self-doubts and isolation – in this barn-burner from the Allmans’ Hittin’ the Note album. Powered by guitarists Haynes (who co-wrote this song) and Derek Trucks, the band raises hell behind Gregg, who reciprocates in one of his best later-day performances.  

Show Comments