Gregg Allman explores his life-threatening battle with hepatitis C in forthcoming memoir

Gregg Allman’s new memoir, My Cross to Bear, is due May 1 — and fans can expect a frank look into his health struggles with hepatitis C, a virus that leads to liver inflammation.

The 64-year-old, fresh off a critically acclaimed solo triumph with Low Country Blues, had a liver transplant a year ago. It was during that fight for his life, Allman says, that he decided to begin writing his life’s story.

“I’m a pretty private person, and would always joke that if I wrote a book about my life it would need sequels because of all the tales that haven’t been told,” Allman told Men’s Health. “Honestly, I never thought I’d be writing a memoir, until I was in a fight for my life battling chronic hepatitis C. It was then that I started reflecting and realized that with the good, the bad, and the funny, people might get something from hearing my stories.”

Before his 1999 diagnosis, Allman had built a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame career as one of the co-creators of Southern rock, having been placed No. 70 on the Rolling Stone list of the 100 greatest singers of all time. Together with the Allman Brothers Band, he was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award during the 54th Grammy telecast.

Hepatitis C put all of that in perspective, Allman said.

“When you go through something like hep C, you really do some soul searching looking back but also forward on where you want to go,” Allman said. “My life’s been a real roller coaster ride, but I’ll tell you it’s been a thrilling one. … After going through what I did, I think I look at life differently. I know that I’m lucky to be here. For me, it’s always been about the music and even through my challenges with chronic hep C, I’ve pushed on as much as I could with my music. I’ve always appreciated what we’ve got, but today some things are even more special.”

Here’s a look at our recent thoughts on Gregg Allman and the Allman Brothers Band. Click through the titles for complete reviews …

GREGG ALLMAN – LOW COUNTRY BLUES (2011): This record’s hat-tips to blues, R&B, gospel and jazz only underscore how each provided uniquely American spices in the Allman Brothers Band’s bubbling Southern-rock synthesis. Even so, it could have been recipe for a snoozy conversation piece if not for Allman — the archetypical risktaker. Check out the appropriately fidgety edge he adds to Muddy Waters’ “I Can’t Be Satisfied,” as Allman dirties up a Chess-era groove. Other highlights include a devastatingly frank update of Sleepy John Estes’ “Floating Bridge,” with a surging assist at the piano from Dr. John; Junior Wells’ “Little by Little,” transformed into something resembling a lost soul side from the 1950s; Skip James’ “Devil Got My Woman,” which again reveals the lively intellect of guitarist Doyle Bramhall II; and Amos Milburn’s hardy R&B classic “Tears, Tears, Tears,” where Allman — belying a series of serious health problems — howls with a shanty-shaking, soul-rending power. He’s still got it. Every bit of it.

ONE TRACK MIND: THE ALLMAN BROTHERS, “MELISSA” (1972): 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.

THE ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND – ONE WAY OUT (2004): The tendency for bands like this — bands that are known for their jamming — is to just rely on jamming, period. This has always been my problem, I find that most of the bands who jam simply lack the chops and taste to maintain my interest for long as they fall back on repetition and simple variations of riffs. The Allman Brothers Band perfected the art of jamming long ago, and One Way Out doesn’t lack for it. Numerous tracks venture past the 10 minute mark, but don’t drag on so long that you forget what song you’re even listening to. What could be an aural mess is just the opposite. The mix on One Way Out is fantastic – so clear that everyone’s parts are exquisitely defined, each being given plenty of room and space and yet it never sounds weak. One Way Out is just plain fun to listen to.

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