STEVE INSKEEP, host:
In his latest album, Gregg Allman sings about near-death experience.
Mr. GREGG ALLMAN (Singer-Songwriter, Musician, Actor): (Singing) Well, I never will forget that floating bridge. Well, I never will forget that floating bridge.
INSKEEP: This song is called "Floating Bridge," and the narrator recounts the time he almost drowned.
Mr. ALLMAN: (Singing) That old floating bridge, tell me five minutes underwater when was I was hid.
INSKEEP: The song, on the album "Low Country Blues," is not Gregg Allman's own. It's attributed to Sleepy John Estes, a blues man of the early 20th century.
SLEEPY JOHN ESTES (Singer, Guitarist): (Singing) Now, I never will forget that floating bridge. Tell me five...
INSKEEP: Gregg Allman, one of today's noted bluesmen listened carefully to Estes' version.
Mr. ALLMAN: If you heard the original of this, it sounds real spooky-like, you know. You can tell that - I mean that he's really putting all his emotions in it. That's what makes me think that it really happened. Cause I mean, his voice is shaking and I don't mean like a natural vibrato.
Mr. ESTES: (Singing) Now, when I was going, laying down, I throw up my hands. Please, take me on dry land. Now...
INSKEEP: This old song of a narrow survival is fitting for Gregg Allman to cover today. In the '70s and '80s, Allman was a rock star, famous for songs like "Im No Angel." He also abused drugs and alcohol. Later, he cleaned up his life, but it was only then that he found that he needed a liver transplant.
That must have been something of a shock. You're going out of your way to live a healthier for a number of years. And...
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. ALLMAN: That's the way it usually always happens, though. You know? A lot of my friends, they would quit drinking, quit drugging, quit smoking, quit everything. And then two or three years down the road, they, you know, they have liver failure.
(Soundbite of song, "Floating Bridge")
INSKEEP: And Allman spent much of last year waiting for a transplant. Five months and five days waiting, he recalls it exactly.
Mr. ALLMAN: God, just as I was just about to go out of my gourd, man.
INSKEEP: He remembers calling his manager to complain and being told he could only wait.
Mr. ALLMAN: But about two hours later, he called me back and said, You still bored?
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. ALLMAN: I said, What up? And he said, Well, they have you a liver, so you'd best be making it on down to Jacksonville.
INSKEEP: Did it occur to you at any point that you might have recorded what would turn out to be a posthumous album?
Mr. ALLMAN: I didnt try to think about that either.
INSKEEP: And Gregg Allman says he tries not to think today about how he could relate to that drowning man in the song. He just plays it.
Mr. ALLMAN: (Singing) Now, my mother often told me dont you be no bum. My mother often told me dont you be no bum. But my mother often told me, son, dont you be no bum. Go somewhere, settle down, find you someone.
INSKEEP: Gregg Allman's latest album is "Low Country Blues." He also performed for us at the studios of our member station WNYC in New York City. And you can hear part of that session at NPR.org.
Mr. ALLMAN: (Singing) And Im crying. Now, the people...
INSKEEP: It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Im Steve Inskeep.
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
And Im Renee Montagne.
Mr. ALLMAN: (Singing) ...on the bridge was screaming and crying. Lord, I thought for sure enough that I was dying...