Saturday, November 19, 2011

Al Green

 Opening Remarks

 I have always loved music.  But I will admit that when I was younger I was completely Top 40. Back in the mid 80's I heard a song that changed all that. Tina Turner came out with the song Lets's Stay Together off her comeback album Private Dancer. I knew of Tina Turner. And I loved that song. I could not hear enough of it and would virtually stop whatever I was doing to hear it on the radio. There was no You Tube in those days.

To that point, I had never heard of Al Green. Fast forward to 1994. I was watching Pulp Fiction. A movie I love. I probably have seen it in full 100 times. Of course the Al Green version of that song is one of the key components to the film. 

It was at that point I really started to take notice of Al Green.
Before that time, I knew of Marvin Gaye. I still remember where I was when I heard that he had been killed by his father, who was mentally ill and committed suicide after he shot his son.
Marvin Gaye and Al Green basically started out at the same time,  in the same type of environment. 
Al Green, as most know, was also involved in an incident where his lover at the time tried to harm him and could have easily killed him. Afterwards, she committed suicide as well.

 Al Green was the lucky one.  He survived the attack and Marvin Gaye did not. Fate smiled on Al Green and he turned his life around after that. To this day he still performs and preaches the gospel. 


Albert Greene was born April 13, 1946  in Forrest City, Arkansas

The son of a sharecropper, he started performing at age ten in a Forrest City quartet called the Greene Brothers; he dropped the final "E" from his last name years later as a solo artist. They toured extensively in the mid-1950s in the South until the Greenes moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan, when they began to tour around Michigan

His father kicked him out of the group because he caught Green listening to Jackie Wilson.

Green formed a group called Al Greene & the Creations in high school. Curtis Rogers and Palmer James, two members of the Creations, formed an independent label called Hot Line Music Journal. In 1967, under the new name Al Greene & the Soul Mates, the band recorded "Back Up Train" and released it on Hot Line Music; the song was an R&B chart hit.

 The Soul Mates' subsequent singles did not sell as well. Al Green's debut LP Back Up Train was released on Hot Line in 1967. The album was upbeat and soulful but didn't do well in sales. This was the only album on the Hot Line label.

Green came into contact with band leader Willie Mitchell of Memphis' Hi Records in 1969, when Mitchell hired him as a vocalist for a Texas show with Mitchell's band and then asked him to sign with the label.

If you listen to Willie Mitchell you can really hear the influence on Al Green. Especially the covers Al Green did of some other artists hits. Like this one.

Green's debut album with Hi Records was Green Is Blues, a slow, horn-driven album that allowed Green to show off his powerful and expressive voice, with Mitchell arranging, engineering and producing. The album was a moderate success.

The next LP, Al Green Gets Next to You (1970), included a hit remake of the Temptations classic "I Can't Get Next to You",

and more significantly, Green's first of seven consecutive gold singles, "Tired of Being Alone"

Let's Stay Together (1972) was an even bigger success

 It was recorded at Royal Recording Studio, in Memphis and was a success, peaking at number eight on the pop albums chart and became the first of six albums to peak at number-one on the soul album chart (where it claimed the position for ten weeks). It is most well known for the title track, which became Green's signature song and only number-one pop hit single. The album was the third Willie Mitchell produced Al Green album and marked the beginning of Green's classic period of critically acclaimed albums. 

as was I'm Still In Love With You (1972).   In 2003, the album was ranked number 285 on the 500 greatest albums of all time by Rolling Stone.

 I'm Still in Love with You is the fifth studio album by  Green,  The album was produced solely by Willie Mitchell.and peaked at number four on the US Billboard 200 and number one on the US Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums and produced four singles: 

"Love and Happiness"

  "I'm Still in Love with You"

  "Look What You Done for Me" 

 "For The Good Times"

Call Me is widely regarded as Green's masterpiece, and has been called one of the best soul albums ever made.  Call Me was a Top 10 Billboard Pop Album, and the third #1 Soul Album. Praised for his emotive singing style, Green here incorporates country influences, covering both Willie Nelson and Hank Williams. This album contained three top 10 singles on the Billboard Hot 100: 

"You Ought to Be with Me,"

"Here I Am (Come and Take Me)"

"Call Me (Come Back Home)."

 plus these two classics.

Funny How Time Slips Away"

 I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry"

Al Green Explores Your Mind (1974)

Unlike previous Al Green albums, this album only featured one major hit, the U.S. #7 hit "Sha-La-La (Make Me Happy)"

  but did contain the original version of "Take Me to the River", a song which went to #26 on the Billboard chart when covered by Talking Heads in 1978. In 2004, the song "Take Me to the River" was ranked number 117 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest songs of all time.

On October 18, 1974, Mary Woodson White, a girlfriend of Green's, assaulted him before committing suicide at his Memphis home. some four months after he peaked at #32 on the Hot 100 with the ironically titled "Let's Get Married"

Green cited the incident as a wake-up call to change his life. He became an ordained pastor of the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Memphis in 1976 and continues to serve in this capacity, delivering services down the street from Graceland.

 Davin Seay, who collaborated with Green on his autobiography, Take Me to the River:

''I think it was a catalyst that resulted in him turning from secular music to gospel music. It does him an injustice to assume his religious conversion was a matter of convenience based on this traumatic experience, and he likes to distance the facts of his conversion from the terrible events of that night. But I think the Woodson incident kind of crystallized his need to move on, to sort of shut down one part of his life and open up another.'' 

Continuing to record R&B, Green saw his sales start to slip and drew mixed reviews from critics. 1977's The Belle Album was critically acclaimed but did not regain his former mass audience.

The Belle Album is a studio album by soul musician Al Green. It is his first album recorded without longtime producer Willie Mitchell

 In 1979 Green injured himself falling off the stage while performing in Cincinnati and interpreted this as a message from God. He then concentrated his energies towards pastoring his church and gospel singing, also appearing in 1982 with Patti Labelle in the Broadway musical Your Arms Too Short to Box with God. 

By the late 70s, he had begun concentrating almost exclusively on gospel music." His first gospel album was The Lord Will Make a Way.

From 1981 to 1989 Green recorded a series of gospel recordings, garnering eight "soul gospel performance" Grammys in that period. 

In 1985, he reunited with Willie Mitchell along with Angelo Earl for He Is the Light, his first album for A&M Records.

In 1984, director Robert Mugge released a documentary film, Gospel According to Al Green, including interviews about his life and footage from his church. 

 In 1989, Green released "I Get Joy", again with producer/guitarist Angelo Earl. 

After spending several years exclusively performing gospel, Green began to return to R&B (Rhythm & Blues). First, he released a duet with Annie Lennox, "Put A Little Love In Your Heart" for Scrooged, a 1988 Bill Murray film.

In 1989 Green worked with producer Arthur Baker writing and producing the international hit "The Message Is Love"

. In 1991 he created the introductory theme song for the short-lived television series Good Sports featuring Ryan O'Neal and Farrah Fawcett. 

In 1992, Green recorded again with Baker, the Fine Young Cannibals, and reunited with his former Memphis mix engineer (this time functioning as producer) Terry Manning, to release the album Don't Look Back.

His 1994 duet with country music singer Lyle Lovett blended country with R&B, garnering him his ninth Grammy, this time in a pop music category. 

Green's first secular album in some time was Your Heart's In Good Hands (1995), released to positive reviews but disappointing sales

In 2001, Green's live cover of Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come" was released on the soundtrack to Will Smith's film Ali 

I Can't Stop is a 2003 album Green, produced by Willie Mitchell and released on the Blue Note label. The album was Green's first release since 1995, his first for Blue Note and his first collaboration with Mitchell since 1985's He Is the Light; it was also Green's first completely secular recording since the 1970s. The reunion between Green and Mitchell was highly-anticipated, and I Can't Stop was a commercial success, peaking at #9 R&B and #53 pop, Green's highest placing on both charts since Al Green Is Love back in 1975.

In March 2005 he issued Everything's OK as the follow-up to I Can't Stop. Green also collaborated with Mitchell on this secular CD.

In 2004, Green sang a duet, "Simply Beautiful", with Queen Latifah on her The Dana Owens Album.

In 2006, Green worked on his latest studio album for Blue Note Records with The Roots' Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson. The album, Lay It Down, was released May 27, 2008 and includes tracks featuring John Legend, Corinne Bailey Rae and Anthony Hamilton.
 Lay It Down reached number nine on the Billboard hit album chart. It was his most successful album release in 35 years.

In June 2010 Al Green appeared on the BBC show Friday Night with Jonathan Ross and sang "Let's Stay Together" accompanied by David Gilmour and Jools Holland.

 The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted Green in 1995, referring to him as "one of the most gifted purveyors of soul music." Green has sold more than 20 million records.

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