The power of a name

Today I finished reading MY CROSS TO BEAR by Gregg Allman (with Alan Light). I was very sad when he died, and put a library hold on his autobiography. I’m currently listening to Brothers and Sisters, the first full album the group recorded after guitarist-extraordinaire Duane Allman died of injuries from a motorcycle wreck, and am listening to the music in a whole new way.

I’m feeling chock-full of Allman Brothers Band lore, but the anecdote that really gives me the chills is the one about how they chose the name for the band. I always assumed it was because Duane and Gregg put the group together, so Allman got top billing.

Not so.

Photo for At Fillmore East album, 1971. Photographer Jim Marshall.

Once they (finally) found their perfect musical combination of two lead guitarists, two drummers, one bass player and one organist, Duane called for a vote on the group’s name. The six members each wrote down the band name he wanted. Gregg chose Beelzebub (the right-hand man of the devil) and Duane, a huge Tolkien fan, chose something from Lord of the Rings. The other four guys? They each wrote Allman Brothers Band.

For some reason, that story really makes me smile.

Young girls dreaming

Brown Girl Dreaming cover

I finally read Jacqueline Woodson’s BROWN GIRL DREAMING and here are some quick thoughts:

  • This book is lovely and absolutely lived up to its well-deserved buzz and multiple awards.
  • While Ms. Woodson and I are the same age, our childhoods were vastly different. She was a brown girl dreaming in South Carolina and Brooklyn while I was a pale girl who did the majority of my childhood dreaming in rural Wisconsin.
  • On the surface, there were some very big differences in our experiences. Hers included:

Institutionalized prejudice
Religion
Big city life
Loving grandparents and extended family

  • Despite those differences, much of Woodson’s story elicited memories so real I could feel, smell, and taste them while others echoed in my head and heart.

Sly & the Family Stone
Crissy dolls with their adjustable hair
“Tingalayo,” the song about a little donkey I remember from my elementary music class
Bubble Yum
Candy cigarettes
The Funky Chicken
Scooby Doo
Pine-Sol
Keds
Siblings
Best friends
Summer vacation
Listening quietly while grownups spoke
Feeling deeply for those we loved
Struggling to find our voices, our places
Words

Good literature is supposed to help us better understand others and ourselves. BROWN GIRL DREAMING bridged the divide to do exactly that.

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