Gregg Allman’s blood runs deep in his new album. Ahead of his musical farewell, the legendary southern rocker had an unusual request, 18 months before his death, when he reached out to artist Vincent Castiglia to ask him to paint a portrait of Allman using his own blood and the blood of his children. Now, four months after Gregg Allman’s death from liver cancer, the portrait painted with his blood will be packaged with certain editions of his new album, Southern Blood.
The portrait is based on a photograph by Neal Preston and will be included in the deluxe edition and the initial run of vinyl copies of Allman’s posthumous album, according to Ultimate Classic Rock. Castiglia reportedly stored vials of Allman’s blood on the top shelf of his refrigerator for more than a year, before starting work on the piece soon after Gregg Allman’s death in May.
“When Gregg shipped me the vials of his blood, no one could have foreseen what was to come — that ultimately the painting wouldn’t be created until his after his passing,” the artist said, according to UCR.
Castiglia says the Gregg Allman portrait is “the single most important work” he has ever created, for multiple reasons. The artist said that while Allman’s musical stature made the project an honor, it was the late rock icon’s “personhood and humanity” that transcended his talent.
Castiglia posted a photo of the portrait on Instagram, revealing how the unusual project came to be. The artist revealed that Allman texted him on Christmas Eve, 2015, to ask him if he would be interested in painting his portrait as album art for his forthcoming final studio album. Castiglia revealed that the concept was the brainchild of Gregg’s daughter, Brooklyn Allman, but that he never dreamed it would come to fruition after the Allman Brothers Band legend’s death.
“Painting Gregg’s portrait in his and his children’s blood, memorializing him posthumously, was one of the most emotively intense experience,” Castiglia wrote.
“Working with the very last of what was physically left of him is just difficult to put into words. My immense respect for him and the project became palpable, as soon as I put brush to canvas. I was transforming his life force, his physicality, INTO his visage.”
Southern Blood carried a lot of emotional weight for everyone involved. On May 26, Allman’s manager, Michael Lehman, sent completed versions of four songs to Allman’s home in Savannah, Georgia, where the ailing rocker listened to them for a final time.
“He was fully lucid and he was excited,” Lehman told Rolling Stone. “He was talking quietly but he wasn’t in any pain at all. He loved the tracks and he knew what he’d done.”
“It was kind of unspoken, but it was really clear we were preparing a final statement, in many ways,” added producer Don Was. “It was so f***in’ heavy, man. We weren’t going to a picnic.”
Gregg Allman died the next day, on May 27, at the age of 69.
Southern Blood marks Gregg Allman’s first album since the Grammy-nominated Low Country Blues in 2011.
[Featured Image by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images]