In a “grizzled, laconic drawl,” wrote Gregory Cowles in The New York Times, Gregg Allman’s recently published autobiography, “My Cross to Bear,” provides a “rambling backstage account of five decades with the Allman Brothers Band.” But it’s Allman’s Jewish co-author, Alan Light, who translated the rock legend’s rough-hewn tall tales of excess into “crisply ironed” prose. A music journalist since high school, Light, 46, was founding editor of Vibe magazine, served a stint as editor of Spin, and has written acclaimed books on the Beastie Boys, hip-hop history and Tupac Shakur. A go-to pop-music correspondent for outlets like The New York Times and Rolling Stone, Light is also director of programming for the PBS concert series “Live from the Artists Den.” He lives on the Upper East Side with his wife, Suzanne MacElfresh, and their nine-year-old son Adam. The Arty semite caught up with him in New York City.
Michael Kaminer: Your immersion in hip-hop doesn’t make you seem like a natural fit for a book by Gregg Allman. How did the gig come about?
Alan Light: When I was at Rolling Stone, before I went to work on the Vibe launch, I wrote the Ice-T cover story, but I also wrote cover stories about Neil Young and U2. As I’ve grown older, and felt like a lot of hip-hop really is directed at a younger audience, I’ve found myself feeling more comfortable writing about older artists — and also, that there’s often more chance to write about them, because the staffers at places like The New York Times and Rolling Stone are more eager to write about the hot new thing.