Monday, August 03, 2009

In Memory of Duane Allman

A few days after the October 29, 1971 motorcycle accident that killed guitarist Duane Allman, the Allman Brothers recorded the song Melissa for their upcoming album Eat a Peach.

The song, written by Gregg Allman in 1967, was a favorite of Duane's, and the band played it at his funeral. I don't know if they altered the lyrics when they recorded it, but the song is not at all about a woman named Melissa: it's about a man who dies. The Eat a Peach version is the saddest song ever recorded, it seems to me: not just the vocals, but even the guitar playing is the saddest guitar playing I've ever heard. While the song was written before he died and I've never seen it claimed that the song is about Duane, it seems to be, even to the Robert Johnson reference in the first line and the depiction of a musician who's always on the road...

Crossroads seem to come and go.
The gypsy flies from coast to coast
Knowing many, loving none,
Bearing sorrow, having fun,
But back home he'll always run
To sweet Melissa...

Freight train, each car looks the same.
No one knows the Gypsy's name
No one hears his lonely sighs,
There are no blankets where he lies.
In deepest dreams the Gypsy flies
With sweet Melissa...

Again the morning's come,
Again he's on the run,
Sunbeams shining through his hair,
Appearing not to have a care.
Well, pick up your gear and Gypsy roll on.

Crossroads, will you ever let him go?
Will you hide the dead man's ghost?
Will he lie beneath the clay,
Or will his spirit float away?
But I know that he won't stay without Melissa.

I couldn't find a version of Melissa on YouTube that I liked, but here are Duane and the boys doing In Memory of Elizabeth Reed:

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