One Track Mind: The Allman Brothers Band "Melissa" (1972)

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Long before I was able to digest the epic, twenty-five minute meandering noodlings of Dicky Betts and Duane Allman, I deeply dug the Allman Brothers’ “Melissa.” It’s a wistful, country-flavored ballad that was easy to learn how to play on a beat-up Yamaha acoustic guitar, and since it was one of the more popular cuts from Eat A Peach, I’m sure I wasn’t the only kid who tried to take it on.

The beauty of Gregg Allman’s classic tune doesn’t rest on any fancy playing, although Betts’ beautifully lonely guitar notes adds to the sorrow. Rather, the essence of the song can be found in Gregg’s ragged, weary vocal that sings about a restless travelling loner, a “gypsy” who longs for the comfort of Melissa waiting at home.

As much as the song’s topic is clear on the surface, the tragic event of Duane’s death shortly before this song was recorded hangs over it like a colossal thundercloud and it just seems to add to the melancholy. Especially when Gregg is singing the line “Will you hide the dead man’s ghost?/Or will he lie beneath the clay?/Or will his spirit roll away?”

It’s not clear if Gregg wrote the song before or after his brother’s death so the lyrics may or may not be an oblique reference. Or perhaps he had a premonition?

Regardless, “Melissa” stands as one of Gregg Allman’s finest moments.

“One Track Mind” is a more-or-less weekly drool over a single song selected on a whim and a short thesis on why you should be drooling over it, too.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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