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Kaedy spoke with Don Was who produced Gregg Allman’s last studio album, Southern Blood, released posthumously September 8, 2017. Hear about Don’s experience working with the Allman Brother during his last days – “He was making an extremely crafted farewell statement.”
Read the liner notes for the last Gregg Allman album written by Don Was below.
In Sept 2011, Gregg received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Americana Music Association. I was playing bass for him in Buddy Miller's house band and was totally blown away when he swaggered onstage for our afternoon soundcheck. Dressed in black jeans, t shirt and boots, covered in tats and jewelry, long blond hair askew, he was as cool as a motherfu*#er and manifested the essence of a natural born rock 'n roll star. His combination of charisma, soulful singing and poetic songwriting was not an 'act' that one studies and perfects over the years - it was a profound gift that only a handful of folks in each generation are lucky enough to be born with. Offstage, he radiated that same presence but you could quickly see that, at his core, he was utterly without pretension - a humble, shy, self-effacing and well-mannered southern gentleman. We struck up a friendship that night which ultimately led to my involvement in this - his farewell album.
He wasn't partial to aimless small talk and, outside of what he expressed in music, kept his feelings pretty much private. Although I became aware of his irreversibly failing health as we got into making the record, we never once got around to discussing the fact that he was living-out his final chapter. The choice of songs for this record said everything that needed to be said...it's the musical last testament of one of the greatest artists of our time. Everything you need to know about Gregg and how he felt at the end of his life is contained in the lyrics to these 10 songs and in the raw and expressive approach he brings to these last performances.
Like the hero in Bob's “Going Going Gone,” he found himself at the 'top of the end' - closing the book on the pages and text and urging those behind him to follow their hearts. His heart led him, in the words of Willie Dixon, to live the life he loved and to love the life he lived. In Gregg's autobiographical “My One True Friend,” he tells us how he'd spent his life on the road and was most alive and happy when he was onstage playing music. Like the truck driver in Little Feat's “Willin',” he'd been kicked by the wind and robbed by the sleet but was still willin' to stay on his bus and keep moving till the end. In Tim Buckley's “Once I Was,” he wonders if, just for a while, he will be remembered. Is he singing to an ex-lover? Is he singing to all of us and referring to the deep, indescribable bond between a performer and his fans?
The moment that gets to me every time is the ending of the last verse of Jackson's beautiful and haunting “Song For Adam.” Gregg always loved this song because it reminded him of his brother Duane. When he gets to the line "still it seems that he stopped singing in the middle of his song" you can hear him choke up and falter. We decided to stop for the day, and Gregg never got the chance to actually sing those next two lines. Leaving them open seemed like a poignant and poetic way for him to make his exit.
Gregg Allman cared deeply about this final album. He had very specific ideas about what he wanted to say and how he wanted to say it. He spent his final night listening to the latest mixes and closed his eyes for the last time knowing that his vision had been realized. Everyone involved in the making of this record hopes that it moves you and brings you great comfort in the years to come.