Reverend Al Green

American soul singer, songwriter and record producer Albert Leornes Greene was born on April 13, 1946, in Forrest City, Arkansas. Al began performing with his brothers in a group called the Greene Brothers at around the age of ten. The Greene family relocated to Grand Rapids, Michigan, in the late 1950s. Al was kicked out of the family home while in his teens, after his religiously devout father caught him listening to Jackie Wilson. He also listened to Mahalia Jackson, Wilson Pickett and Elvis Presley. In high school, Al formed a vocal group called Al Greene & the Creations. Two of the group’s members, Curtis Rodgers and Palmer James, formed an independent label called Hot Line Music Journal. In 1968, having changed their name to Al Greene & the Soul Mates, they recorded the song “Back Up Train”. While performing with the soul Mates He was hired him in 1969 to be a vocalist for a Texas show and was asked to sign with Hi Records label.

Green released the album Green Is Blues, which was a moderate success. His follow-up album, Al Green Gets Next to You, featured the hit R&B cover of the Temptations’ “I Can’t Get Next to You”, recorded in a slow blues-oriented version. The album also featured his first significant hit, “Tired of Being Alone”, which sold half a million copies and was certified gold, becoming the first of seven consecutive gold singles Green would record in the next couple of years. Green’s next album, Let’s Stay Together, became his first to be certified gold and featured the songs LetsStay Together, I’m Still in Love with You and “Look What You Done for Me”. His next album, Call Me, released in 1973, produced three top ten singles: “You Ought to Be with Me”, “Call Me (Come Back Home)” and “Here I Am (Come and Take Me)”. Green’s next album Livin’ for You, was released at the end of 1973. Other Green songs include “Love and Happiness”, his cover of the Bee Gees’ “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart”, “Simply Beautiful”, “What a Wonderful Thing Love Is” and “Take Me to the River”, “Livin’ for You”, “Let’s Get Married”, “Sha-La-La (Makes Me Happy)”, “L-O-V-E (Love)” and “Full of Fire”. In 1977 Green released the albums The Belle Album in 1977, and Truth n’ Time in 1978.

In 1974, Mary Woodson White, a girlfriend of Green’s, assaulted him before committing suicide at his Memphis home. Despite being married, White reportedly became upset when Green refused to marry her and doused Green with a pan of boiling grits while he was bathing, causing severe burns on Green’s back, stomach and arms. She then found his .38 and killed herself. Green cited this incident with White as a wake-up call to change his life. He became an ordained pastor of the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Memphis in 1976. He Continued to record R&B, until 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. His first gospel album was The Lord Will Make a Way and won Green his first of eight Grammy Awards in the Best Soul Gospel Performance category.

From 1981 to 1989 Green recorded a series of gospel albums, garnering eight “soul gospel performance” Grammy Awards 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 1982, Green co-starred with Patti LaBelle in the Broadway play, “Your Arms Too Short to Box with God”. His 1985 gospel album, He Is the Light reunited Green with Willie Mitchell while his 1987 follow-up, Soul Survivor, featured the minor hit, “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright”, which reached number 22 on the R&B chart, his first top 40 R&B hit since “I Feel Good” in 1978.

In 1988 Green recorded “Put a Little Love in Your Heart” with Annie Lennox. Featured on the soundtrack to the movie, Scrooged, the song became Green’s first top 10 pop hit since 1974. Green had a hit in 1989 with “The Message is Love” with producer Arthur Baker. Two years later, he recorded the theme song to the short-lived show Good Sports. In 1993, he signed with RCA and with Baker again as producer, released the album, Don’t Look Back. Green received his ninth Grammy award for his collaboration with Lyle Lovett for their duet of “Funny How Time Slips Away”. Green’s 1995 album, Your Heart’s In Good Hands, was released around the time that Green was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The one single released from the album, “Keep On Pushing Love”, was described as “invoking the original, sparse sound of Green’s early classics.” In 2000, Green released his autobiography, Take Me to the River. Two years later, he earned the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and recorded a hit R&B duet with Ann Nesby on the song, “Put It On Paper”. Green again reunited with Willie Mitchell in 2003 for the album, I Can’t Stop. A year later, Green re-recorded his previous song, “Simply Beautiful”, with Queen Latifah on the latter’s album, The Dana Owens Album. In 2005, Green and Mitchell collaborated on Everything’s OK. His 2008 album, Lay It Down, was produced by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson and James Poyser. It became his first album to reach the top ten since the early 1970s. The album featured a minor R&B hit with the ballad, “Stay with Me (By the Sea)”, featuring John Legend and also featuring duets with Anthony Hamilton and Corinne Bailey Rae. During an interview for promotion of the album, Green admitted that he would have liked to duet with Marvin Gaye: “In those days, people didn’t sing together like they do now,” he said. In 2009, Green recorded “People Get Ready” with Heather Headley on the album, Oh Happy Day: An All-Star Music Celebration. In 2010, Green performed “Let’s Stay Together” on Later… with Jools Holland.

Green currently preaches in Memphis, Tennessee near Graceland. He was also Inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995, Green was referred to on the museum’s site as being “one of the most gifted purveyors of soul music”.He has also been referred to as “The Last of the Great Soul Singers”. Green was included in the Rolling Stone list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time, ranking at No. 65.

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