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Green, Al

Al Green

Singer, songwriter

Back Up Train

String of Soul Hits

Finding His Religion

Gods Way of Saying Hurry Up

Selected discography

Sources

Al Green emerged from relative obscurityhe recorded one moderately successful single in the 1960sto become one of the premiere soul vocalists of the early 1970s and an unrivaled hitmaker. His impassioned, sensual delivery and silky charisma made him a sex symbol as well, and he seemed prepared to dominate the world of rhythm and blues throughout the decade with hits like Love and Happiness and Lets Stay Together. Something unexpected happened, however, that exerted a profound effect on the course of Greens career: he converted to Christianity, made his way back to the gospel music he had sung in childhood, and eventually became the minister of his own church in Memphis, Tennessee. Although this decision cost Green the chance to be the king of soul music, he has recorded a string of albums since then, some of them quite successful, and has introduced many secular listeners to the power of gospel. In his prime as a mainstream soul singer, though, according to Geoffrey Himes of Musician. Green created a body of work that stands with the best black pop of the 70s.

Green was born in 1946 in Forrest City, Arkansas. His father played bass in a traveling gospel group, the Green Brothers, and by the age of nine, Al was singing alongside his brothers in the band. The family moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan, when Al was about sixteen, and there he discovered the joy of secular music: the nongospel work of Sam Cooke and, most especially, the sounds of rhythm and blues legend Jackie Wilson. I had told my father and my brothers that I had this idea about me becoming a real popular singer and they didnt like it, Green told Melody Maker in a 1975 interview. They didnt believe I could do it and they thought I was kidding them.... They thought I was nuts. They also thought pop music was sinful. Green further confessed in the interview that he would sneak out to a friends house to listen to pop records.

Back Up Train

Having decided on a career in pop music, Green assembled a group known as Al Green and the Creations; when that group broke up he formed Al Green and the Soul Mates. In 1967 Green and the group recorded his first single, Back Up Train. Released by Bell Records, the song was a Top Five hit, though Green never made a penny from it. He began singing his one hit on the chitlin circuit, as the black music nightspots of the time were known. I can remember doing the Apollo in New York as the opening act when I had just eight minutes to sing my record on stage, he recalled to Melody Maker. Four of those minutes it takes to get from the tenth floor dressing room all the

For the Record

Born April 13, 1946, in Forrest City, AR; father played bass for traveling gospel group; married; children.

Recording and performing artist, 1967. Formed groups Al Green and the Creations and Al Green and the Soul Mates, mid-1960s; recorded debut single, Back Up Train, 1967; released first LP, Al Green Gets Next to You, 1971. Ordained minister, 1976, and established Full Gospel Tabernacle Church, Memphis, TN. President of Green Enterprises, Inc., and Al Green Music, Inc.

Awards: Platinum records for Lets Stai; Together and Im Still in Love With You, 1972, and Al Green Is Love and Greatest Hits, 1975; gold records for Livin for You and Call Me, 1973, and Al Green Explores Your Mind, 1974; Grammy Award, 1980, for The Lord Will Make a Way; Dove Award, Gospel Music Association, 1984.

Addresses: Record company Epic Records, P.O. Box 4450, New York, NY 10101-4450; 1801 Century Park West, Los Angeles, CA 90067.

way down to the bottom and by the time youre into the song, theyre calling you from the side, ready for the next act. Green added, After one song they wouldnt let me do any more. I tried to do some Sam and Dave tunes, but theyd only let me sing Back Up Train. Green reportedly told a skeptical floor manager that hed be back one day, with a dressing room on the first floor instead of the tenth.

After a couple of directionless years, Green hooked up with trumpeter-producer Willie Mitchell in Midland, Texas. The two had been ripped off by the same club owner and vowed to escape the torpor of the circuit. Mitchell had a label in Memphis called Hi and was prepared to make killer soul records. Mitchell, together with brothers Tennie, Leroy and Charles Hodges (on guitar, bass, and keyboards) and drummers Howard Grimes and Al Jackson, Jr.the latter formerly of the stellar Memphis band Booker T. and the MGsneeded only a singer whose voice would define the sound. Greens was that voice, wrote Himes in Musician. It seemed to defy gravity as it grew in intensity, as it rose in pitch. It had a soft-slurring sensuality that blended the urban sophistication of Northern soul with the holy roller roots of Southern soul. With its tough, funky rhythm section and buoyant, often string-laden melodic arrangements, the Hi house band could match Greens vocal flights. It was a good package, said Green with characteristic understatement in a Down Beat interview; he told Rolling Stone in 1987 that Willie would write the music, I wrote the words, and then Al Jackson would come in and say, Let me hear that. It was just a combination that clicked.

String of Soul Hits

After grappling with some inappropriate materialnotably attempts to cover songs by the Beatles and soul hitmaker Isaac Hayesthey hit with a Green original, Tired of Being Alone, in 1971. Green explained to Melody Maker, Nobody was writing the kind of material that I heard in my head and wanted to sing. My only choice was to write my own. The single was a million seller; that same year saw the release of the album Al Green Gets Next to You, which also contained I Cant Get Next to You and Are You Lonely for Me.

Green reached the number one position on the pop and rhythm and blues charts with his next big hit, Lets Stay Together. The album that bore the singles title, released in 1972, went platinum, as did its successor of the same year, Im Still in Love With You. Dean and Nancy Tudor wrote in their 1979 book Black Music that Greens voice is very flexible: he can growl, scream, shout, croon, scat, and so forth with no apparent effort, including a rising falsetto. They maintain that Lets Stay Together and Im Still in Love With You contain his best work to date. Rolling Stones special 1988 list of The Top 100 Singles of the Last 25 Years put Lets Stay Together at number 45. It was, wrote the editors, the song that established Green as one of the great soul singers. The Rolling Stone piece also cites a story Mitchell told in a 1984 documentary: We were over here in the ghetto area, and there was a bunch of winos drinking with themselves out there. We said, Lets get four or five gallons of winebring these people into the studio! So we brought about fifty people in here, all the winos drinking wine and lying on the floor while we were cutting the record. If you notice, on the Lets Stay Together album, theres a lot of noise in the background. Well, its the winos.

Finding His Religion

In 1973 Green was riding high. He released three albums that year, two of which, Livin for You and Call Me, went gold. I think my best singing was done on Call Me, Green told Rolling Stone in 1987. The magazine referred to the record as perhaps the epitome of [the Green-Mitchell] collaboration, featuring Greens versions of a couple of country songs, including the Hank Williams classic Im So Lonesome I Could Cry and Willie Nelsons Funny How Time Slips Away. The gospel song Jesus Is Waiting also appeared on Call Me, reflecting the fact that in the midst of his pop success and recognition, the singer had found religion. I was born again in 1973, Green told Musician, insisting that he underwent a lengthy transformation rather than being turned around by a single incident. Instead of switching to straight gospel music performances as a result of his experience, Green attempted a synthesis between popular soul and the intense religious ferment he felt.

The year 1974 saw the release of Al Green Explores Your Mind, which featured the single Take Me to the River. That songcovered by many artists in the ensuing decadesis at once a riveting ode to sexual desire and a cry for spiritual redemption. The tension of secular and sacred in the song gives it a compelling edge. The straightforwardly upbeat 1974 single Sha-La-La (Make Me Happy) was a huge hit as well. But the year may be more notable for an incident that pushed Green further toward his eventual ministerial destination. A woman he knew and had rejected scalded the singer while he bathed by pouring a pot of steaming grits down his back. She then locked herself in his bedroom and committed suicide. This traumatic experience moved Greenwho was hospitalized for his burnsto reflect on his life and eventually to seek solace and illumination in the scriptures.

Hi released a Greatest Hits package in 1975, signalling, consciously or not, the end of Greens reign as a soul music hitmaker; it went gold. It was, however, the beginning of a new era. In 1976 he became a minister, though he had to open his own churchthe Full Gospel Tabernaclein Memphis to escape the scorn of the religious establishment. The next year, Green went into his own studio for Hibut without Mitchellto produce The Belle Album. Although Greil Marcus of Rolling Stone called it idiosyncratic, he asserted that we may someday look back on The Belle Album as Al Greens best. Of the song All n All Marcus remarked that it carries a sense of liberation and purpose deep enough to make the sinner envy the saved. Musicians Himes called Belle the crowning artistic achievement of Greens career. The record was not, however, a commercial success, at least measured against Greens previous efforts.

Gods Way of Saying Hurry Up

Rolling Stones Dave Marsh wrote of Greens 1979 follow-up Truth n Time that it lacks the monumental peaks of Belle but it has much more focus. Green was still struggling for balance, mixing gospel songs like King of All with such pop covers as To Sir With Love and a nod in the direction of disco. He lost his balance quite literally that year, falling from the stage during an appearance in Cincinnati, Ohio, and he was subsequently hospitalized for two weeks. I was moving towards God, but I wasnt moving fast enough, Green was quoted as saying in a Musician profile. It was Gods way of saying hurry up. Green hurried up and recorded his first album of exclusively gospel songs, 1980s The Lord Will Make a Way, for the Texas religious music label Myrrh Records. Although he was no longer a contender for massive pop sales, Green was honored with a Grammy that year for best gospel performance. He continued in this vein with Higher Plane in 1981 and Precious Lord in 1982. Tom Carson wrote in Rolling Stone that Higher Plane may be the most intimately seductive gospel album ever recorded. Melody Maker called Precious Lord a lovely collection of songs. Also in 1982, Green appeared in the Broadway gospel musical Your Arms Too Short to Box With God. And he continued performing live, though his sexually dynamic stage presence alienated some gospel fans.

Greens 1986 record He Is the Light reunited him with Mitchell and saw him return to a major label, A&M. According to Rolling Stone, Green and Mitchell have successfully recreated the sound of the classic soul albums they cut for Hi Records. 1988 saw Green re-emerge momentarily on the pop scene with Put a Little Love in Your Heart, a duet with rock diva Annie Lennox on the Scrooged movie soundtrack. In 1989 he released I Get Joy, which Cosmopolitan called smoldering. Hi/MCA released a collection of pre-gospel Green material called Love Ritual in 1990. Then Green moved to Word/Epic for the 1991 compilation One in a Million, which gathered songs from his eighties gospel albums, and 1992s Love Is Reality. On Love he was produced by former Motown recording artist Tim Miner, who surrounded Green with up-to-date production touches and arrangements, including new jack swing. Green also made some videos to promote Love Is Reality. Its kind of like a boxer fighting his fight, Green stated in the Epic press release. He just goes in and hits it at the level hes at. We cut the album very fast. I wrote it in the studio. I wrote it at home. I wrote it in the hotel. I wrote one tune in the elevator, on the back of a legal pad.

By the time of Love Is Reality, Green had been recording gospel records for over twelve years. Yet critics and many fans continued to treat his gospel career, for the most part, as a footnote to his brief blaze of glory as a soul singer. Green, however, managed to bring the various camps together in part because he never recognized the formal boundaries. There are different degrees of love and different kinds of celebration, he told Cosmopolitan. I sang gospel music as a child, then wrote and sang pop songs for ten years, before I was born again in nineteen seventy-three. Ive never known what the dividing lines were and still dont.

Selected discography

Back Up Train (single), Bell Records, 1967.

On Hi Records

Al Green Gets Next to You (includes Tired of Being Alone, I Cant Get Next to You, and Are You Lonely for Me), 1971.

Lets Stay Together (includes Lets Stay Together), 1972.

Im Still in Love With You, 1972.

Al Green, 1972.

Green Is Blues, 1973.

Call Me (includes Call Me, Im So Lonesome I Could Cry, and Funny How Time Slips Away), 1973.

Livinfor You, 1973.

Al Green Explores Your Mind (includes Take Me to the River and Sha-La-La [Make Me Happy]), 1974.

Greatest Hits, 1975.

Al Green Is Love, 1975.

The Belle Album (includes All n All), 1977.

Greatest Hits, Volume II, 1977.

Truth n Time (includes King of All and To Sir With Love), 1979.

Love Ritual, 1990.

On Myrrh Records

The Lord Will Make a Way, 1980.

Higher Plane, 1981.

Precious Lord, 1982.

On A&M Records

He Is the Light, 1986.

(Contributor; with Annie Lennox) Scrooged (soundtrack; Put a Little Love in Your Heart), 1988.

I Get Joy, 1989.

On Word/Epic Records

One in a Million, 1991.

Love Is Reality, 1992.

White Christmas.

Sources

Books

The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll, edited by Jim Miller, Random House, 1976.

Tudor, Dean, and Nancy Tudor, Black Music, Libraries Unlimited, 1979.

Periodicals

Audio, January 1990.

Cosmopolitan, October 1989.

Down Beat, April 5, 1979.

Ebony, June 1991.

Melody Maker, August 18, 1973; December 27, 1973; January 12, 1974; March 29, 1975; April 19, 1975; January 14, 1978; August 25, 1979; December 18, 1982; July 15, 1989.

Musician, April 1983; March 1986.

Rolling Stone, February 23, 1978; March 9, 1978; March 22, 1979; March 18, 1982; September 13, 1984; January 30, 1986; March 27, 1986; August 27, 1987; September 8, 1988.

Additional information for this profile was obtained from an Epic Records press release, 1992.

Simon Glickman

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Green, Al 1946–

Al Green 1946

The Road To Memphis

The Road to Stardom

The Reverend AI Green

Crossing Over: A Gospel and Pop Artist

Selected discography

Sources

Singer, songwriter, pastor

Considered by music writers as the last true successor of Sam Cooke and Otis Redding, Al Green has enjoyed a long and rewarding career as a pop and gospel singer. His pop and religious works have earned consistent praise from musicians and critics. Unlike the great R&B shouters and early soul singers, Green has a voice that, although capable of rich blues-drenched tone and soaring falsetto cries, delivers plaintive emotion without harsh delivery or guttural technique. His sexually silken voice landed him a string of million-selling hits in the 1970s. Following his departure from popular music in 1980, he became a member of the ministry and a singer of gospel music. His recent return to pop music, and the appearance of his music in documentaries and film soundtracks has once again brought him widespread notice. Able to straddle the fence between secular and religious music, he has devoted himself to the universal message of music.

Albert Green was born on April 13, 1946, in Forrest City, Arkansas. As a teenager Green and his brothers, Walter, William, and Robert, formed a gospel quartet, The Green Brothers. Though he sang in the gospel group, Green had developed an affinity for both religious and popular music. He stated, as quoted in Black Popular Music by Arnold Shaw, Sam Cooke, Jackie WilsonI didnt make distinctions between spiritual and secular music to any great extent back then. If they sang with feeling, from their hearts, I loved the music.

At age 12 Green moved with his family to Grand Rapids, Michigan, a city about 180 miles west of Detroit. Four years later, he and several school friends formed a pop group, the Creations. In 1967 the group, renamed Al Green and the Soulmates, recorded the pop hit Back Up Train for the Hotline label which rose to number five on the R&B charts and number 41 on the Billboard charts. Despite the songs success the group did not score a follow-up hit and disbanded soon after.

The Road To Memphis

In 1968 Green performed at a club in Midland, Texas, backed by Memphis bandleader and trumpeter Willie Mitchell (who had scored a hit with a remake of King Curtis instrumental Soul Serenade). Impressed with Greens talent, Mitchell, a part-time talent scout and

At a Glance

Born April 13, 1946, in Forrest City, AR.

Sang in family gospel group at age nine; at 16 formed pop group the Creations; signed a contract with Hi Records, 1969; first hit single, 1971; first self-produced album, 1977; bought Full Gospel Tabernacle Church in Memphis and ordained its pastor in the late 1970s; left secular music, 1980; played on Broadway in Your Arms Too Short Too Box with God, 1982; released documentary Gospel According to Green, 1987; appeared at the Nelson Mandela Birthday Concert, 1988; appeared at John Lennon Memorial Concert, 1990; appeared in music film Rhythm, Gountry, and Blues, 1994.

Selected awards: RIAA Gold Records for sales of over a million records, 1971; inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 1994.

Addresses: Office Full Gospel Tabernacle Ministries, PO Box 9485 Memphis, TN 38109.

producer for Hi Records in Memphis, invited the young singer to record on the label with the promise that he could make Green a star in little over a year. About six months later, Green arrived in Memphis. As Arnold Shaw explained in Black Popular Music, Together, Green and Mitchell sought to forge a style that combined the pop-soul of Detroits Motown with the down home soul of Memphis Stax [label], aiming for a black-white synthesis that blended black soul with white pop. In the studio Mitchell assembled a stellar line-up of back-up musicians to perform behind Greenmusicians that included the family team of guitarist Teenie Hodges, organist Charles Hodges, and bassist Leroy Hodges, as well as veteran member of Booker T. and The MGs and Stax studio drummer Al Jackson, Jr. (who had also played with Otis Redding). The music formula put forth by Mitchell and Green proved an outstanding combination. As music writer Peter Guralnick wrote in his Sweet Soul Music, Willie Mitchell and Al Green came up with an old idea phrased in a new way, the last eccentric refinement of Sam Cookes lyrical gospel-edged style as filtered through the fractured vocal approach of Otis Redding and the peculiarly fragmented vision of Al Green himself.

The Road to Stardom

In 1968 the Green-Mitchell collaboration released a cover of the Beatles I Want Hold Your Hand and a commercially unsuccessful rendition of the Hayes-Porter ballad One Woman. Not until he recorded a remake of the Temptations hit I Cant Get Next to You did Green establish himself as pop singing star. For Greens next single Tired of Being Alone, Mitchell sought a more subtle sound in Greens voice. We started working, trying to get him to sing softer, explained Mitchell, as quoted in the Chicago Tribune, We started coming up with jazz chordspretty music on top and heavy on the bottom. And it just clicked. Accompanied by Teenie Hodges relaxed and tasteful guitar work, Tired of Being Alone emerged as Greens first smash hit. These singles appeared on Greens 1971 LP Al Green Gets Next to You, which also included Greens gritty number Im a Ram and a cover of blues pianist Roosevelt Sykes Driving Wheel (Greens rendition was inspired by a later remake of the song by blues singer Little Junior Parker). Greens original You Say It owes a debt to Greens early Memphis singing mentors Sam and Dave.

Greens title cut of the 1972 LP Lets Stay Together brought him his first number one hit. This third record, observed Robert Gordon, in the liner notes to Lets Stay Together,solidified Greens direction. After modeling himself on Sam Cooke and Otis Redding, he established his own style. Writing and cowriting seven of the albums nine tunes, his tendency toward funk is subsumed by his gentle side. In Sweet Soul Music Peter Guralnick also noted the impact of the Green-Mitchell collaboration on the black music scene: Willie Mitchell and Al Green would soon take soul music-real, unabashed, wholehearted soul musicto quiet, luxuriantly appointed places it had never been before.

The year 1972 also saw the release of Greens biggest selling-album, Im Still in Love with You, which, with the exception of a token cover of Roy Orbisons Pretty Woman, is a fine showcase of Greens talent. Green draws upon material from the Doors Light My Fire to Kris Kristoffersons For the Good Times. On the popular and driving number Love and Happiness, Green conjures up the dual role of preacher and soul singer to bring forth a pop music classic.

In 1974 Green released the LP Al Green Explores Your Mind on the Hi label. That same year, the momentum of his career suffered a severe setback. While climbing out of the bathtub at his home, Greens girlfriend poured a pot of boiling grits on him, causing second-degree burns to his back and arms. The young woman then committed suicide. After recovering from the physical and emotional effects of the much-publicized incident with his former girlfriend, Green recorded the 1976 LP Full Of Fire for the Hi label. Once again joined by the stellar line-up of Wayne Jackson and Hodges brothers, Green and producer Willie Mitchell, wrote Bill Adler in Down Beat review, manage to shuffle around the familiar elements of their formula for success. Though the LP shows signs of disco-influence, Green and the Hi studio band maintain a tasteful balance. In 1977 Green, expressing increasing interest in recording gospel music, parted company with Mitchell and without the line-up of the Hi rhythm section recorded the critically acclaimed LP The Belle Album. Though it did bring commercial success, the Belle Album was noted for Greens playing of acoustic and electric guitar and inventive sound techniques. In 1978 Green cut Truth IV Time, a Motown LP that included the gospel songs Blow Me Down and King of All and a religious treatment of Burt Bacharachs Say a Little Prayer for Me.

The Reverend AI Green

In the late 1970s Green purchased his own church, The Full Gospel Tabernacle in Memphis, and became the institutions pastor. In 1980 Green left secular popular music to devote himself to religion. Though he had included at least one religious number on his previous LPs, Greens conversion surprised his former producer Mitchell who stated, as quoted in the Chicago Tribune, I had no idea he was going to become a preacher, but he was always religious. In Black Gospel,Green expressed the work involved in his dual role as singer and pastor: I have to divide my time between my singing and my church in Memphis and well, I do my best to rightly divide it. And I have to devote a sufficient amount of time to do a good job, which is kinda difficult sometimes. I preach every other Sunday in church, and we have so many members.

A new religious direction led Green to a modern gospel recording career. Greens voice is in fine form on the albums Higher Plane (1981) and Precious Lord (1982). Though recorded for the Hi label, Precious Lord, is a polished effort that lacked Mitchells rich production sound. Taking note of Greens gospel career, Tony Heilbut commented in The Gospel Sound how Greens voice exhibited a limber falsetto, a breathless crooner, a growling preacherin three-way encounter. In 1982 Green also starred in the stage production Your Arms Too Short to Box with God with Patti LaBelle. He signed with A&M Records in 1985 and recorded three albums for the label, including the 1987 release Soul Survivor. In live performance Green continued to awe audiences. In the New York Times Jon Páreles captured Greens on-stage energy in a review of the singers performance at New Yorks Radio City in August of 1987 : He would bring down a song down to a whisper; hed break into his clear, agile falsetto, or show off by walking away from microphone as he sang, projecting his unassisted voice well past the first 20 rows. Green shifted continually between control and abandon; he skipped and strutted, made faces, stood with seemingly limp arms and then broke into preacherly gesticulations. By the final song he was jumping into the air at musical peaks. The year 1987 also saw the release of his documentary, The Gospel According to Green. The 94-minute documentary, cowritten and coproduced by Green and Mitchell, features concert footage and interviews with the two artists. Most noteworthy is Mitchells recollections of his experience in the studio with this soul singing icon.

Crossing Over: A Gospel and Pop Artist

In 1988 Green appeared at the Nelson Mandela Birthday Concert in London; two years later he performed at the John Lennon Memorial Concert at Peir Head, Liverpool. Greens 1989 A&M album/ Get Joy contained the lead track Youre Everything to Mea number, as Bill Dahl described in the Chicago Tribune, that could just as easily be construed as an ode to a lover as to the Lord. Greens 1991 release, One In a Million, for the Word/Epic label was followed by the LP Love Is Reality, a religious-based blend of up-tempo numbers immersed in synth-pop and funk rhythms. Love Is Reality contained a set of numbers that, as Bill Dahl wrote in Chicago Tribune, are nearly indistinguishable from the standard urban contemporary fare, with slick arrangements and occasionally ambiguous lyrics.

By 1993 Green began to once again record secular material, and in the following year appeared in the music film Rhythm, Country, and Blues, a tribute to the musical cultures of Memphis and Nashville. The films soundtrack, produced by Don Was, featured a number of musical performances by R&B and country stars, including a duet by Green and Lyle Lovett of (Aint it Funny) How Time Slips Away. For his 1995 release for MCA Records, Your Heart Is in the Right Place, Green is backed by the legendary Memphis Horns.

In recent years, Green has overcome diminishing record sales and loss of mass audience. His song Take to Me the River has become, as a result of a 1980s cover by the Talking Heads, his most famous composition; his 1970s hit Lets Stay Together has attracted renewed interest with its appearance in the film soundtrack to Pulp Fiction. Through stardom, religious sojourns, and self-resurrection as a pop music performer, Green has remained a dynamic artist whose ability easily crosses the borders of secular and religious music. Unlike his mentor Sam Cooke who left the church in the late 1950s to embark on a career in pop music, Green left a successful pop recording career to devote himself to God and church. To many, his periodic crossing over between pop and gospel reveals a sign of inward restlessness. In discussing Greens career, Arnold Shaw in Black Popular Music related that there is little indication that his immense success as a popular entertainer has brought the serenity he seeks in his colloquies with God. Dividing his time between church and concert stage, Green, whether singing the praises of God or celebrating the temporal joys of life, remains one of the last of the great soul singers.

Selected discography

Green Is Blues, Hi Records, 1970.

Lets Stay Together, Hi Records, 1971.

AI Green Gets Next to You, Hi Records, 1971.

Im Still in Love With You,Hi Records, 1972.

Livin For You, Hi Records, 1973.

Call Me, Hi Records, 1973.

Al Green Explores Your Mind, Hi Records, 1974.

AI Green Is Love, Hi Records, 1974.

L-O-VE, Hi Records, 1975.

Sl-la-la Make Me Happy,Hi Records, 1974.

Greatest Hits, Hi Records, 1975.

Full of Fire, Hi Records, 1976.

The Belle Album, Hi Records, 1977.

Higher Plane, A&M, 1982.

Highway to Heaven, Myrrh, 1981.

Precious Lord, Hi Records, 1982.

Ill Rise Again, Word/Epic, 1983.

White Christmas, Word/Epic, 1983.

He Is The Light, A&M, 1985.

Trust in God, Myrrh, 1985.

Soul Survivor, A&M, 1987.

I Get Joy, A&M, 1989.

Love Ritual: Rare and Previously Unreleased, MCA, 1989.

Truth V Time, Motown, 1991.

Full Gospel Tabernacle Choir, A&M.

One in a Million, Word/Epic, 1991.

Love Is Reality, Word/Epic, 1992.

Your Hearts In Good Hands,MCA Records, 1995.

Christmas Album, A&M.

Compact Disc Command Performances,Motown.

Cover Me, Hi Records.

The Flip Side, Hi Records.

From My Soul, Arrival.

Gospel Soul, Arrival.

Greatest Hits, Volume 2, Motown.

The Lord Will Make a Way, A&M.

Tokyo Live!, The Right Stuff.

Trust in God, A&M.

Sources

Books

Black Gospel: An Illustrated History of the Gospel

Sound,Blanford Press, 1985.

Guralnick, Peter, Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm & Blues and the Southern Dream of Freedom, Harper & Row, 1986.

Heilbut, Tony. The Gospel Sound: Good New and Bad Times, Limelight edition, 1985.

Shaw, Arnold, Black Popular Music in America, Schirmer, 1986.

Periodicals

Chicago Tribune, June 6, 1993.

Down Beat, July 15, 1976.

New York Times, August 17, 1987; September 9, 1987.

Other

Gordon, Robert, (liner notes), Lets Stay Together, Hi Records, 1971.

John Cohassey

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Green, Al

Al Green

1946

Singer, Songwriter, Minister

Considered by music writers as the last true successor of Sam Cooke and Otis Redding, Al Green has enjoyed a long and rewarding career as a pop and gospel singer. His pop and religious works have earned consistent praise from musicians and critics alike. Unlike the great R&B shouters and early soul singers, Green has a voice that, although capable of rich blues-drenched tone and soaring falsetto cries, delivers plaintive emotion without harsh delivery or guttural technique. His sexy, silken voice landed him a string of million-selling hits in the 1970s. Following his departure from popular music in 1980, he became a member of the ministry and a singer of gospel music. His recent return to pop music, and the appearance of his music in documentaries and film soundtracks, has once again brought him widespread notice. Able to straddle the fence between secular and religious music, he has devoted himself to the universal message of music.

Sang from an Early Age

Albert Green was born on April 13, 1946, in Forrest City, Arkansas. As a teenager Green and his brothers, Walter, William, and Robert, formed a gospel quartet, The Green Brothers. Though he sang in the gospel group, Green had developed an affinity for both religious and popular music. He stated, as quoted in Black Popular Music by Arnold Shaw, "Sam Cooke, Jackie WilsonI didn't make distinctions between spiritual and secular music to any great extent back then. If they sang with feeling, from their hearts, I loved the music."

At age 12 Green moved with his family to Grand Rapids, Michigan, a city about 180 miles west of Detroit. Four years later, he and several school friends formed a pop group, the Creations. In 1967 the group, renamed Al Green and the Soulmates, recorded the pop hit "Back Up Train" for the Hotline label; the song rose to number five on the R&B charts and number 41 on the Billboard charts. Despite the song's success the group did not score a follow-up hit and disbanded soon after.

In 1968 Green performed at a club in Midland, Texas, backed by Memphis bandleader and trumpeter Willie Mitchell (who had scored a hit with a remake of King Curtis's instrumental "Soul Serenade"). Impressed with Green's talent, Mitchell, a part-time talent scout and producer for Hi Records in Memphis, invited the young singer to record on the label with the promise that he could make Green a star in little over a year. About six months later, Green arrived in Memphis. As Arnold Shaw explained in Black Popular Music, "Together, Green and Mitchell sought to forge a style that combined the pop-soul of Detroit's Motown with the down home soul of Memphis' Stax [label], aiming for a black-white synthesis that blended black soul with white pop." In the studio Mitchell assembled a stellar line-up of back-up musicians to perform behind Greenmusicians that included the family team of guitarist Teenie Hodges, organist Charles Hodges, and bassist Leroy Hodges, as well as veteran membersof Booker T. and The MG's and Stax studio drummer Al Jackson Jr. (who had also played with Otis Redding). The music formula put forth by Mitchell and Green proved an outstanding combination. As music writer Peter Guralnick wrote in Sweet Soul Music, "Willie Mitchell and Al Green came up with an old idea phrased in a new way, the last eccentric refinement of Sam Cooke's lyrical gospel-edged style as filtered through the fractured vocal approach of Otis Redding and the peculiarly fragmented vision of Al Green himself."

In 1968 the Green-Mitchell collaboration released a cover of the Beatles' "I Want Hold Your Hand" and a commercially unsuccessful rendition of the Hayes-Porter ballad "One Woman." Not until he recorded a remake of the Temptations' hit "I Can't Get Next to You" did Green establish himself as pop singing star. For Green's next single "Tired of Being Alone," Mitchell sought a more subtle sound in Green's voice. "We started working, trying to get him to sing softer," explained Mitchell, as quoted in the Chicago Tribune, "We started coming up with jazz chordsretty music on top and heavy on the bottom. And it just clicked." Accompanied by Teenie Hodges' relaxed and tasteful guitar work, "Tired of Being Alone" emerged as Green's first smash hit. These singles appeared on Green's 1971 LP Al Green Gets Next to You, which also included Green's gritty number "I'm a Ram" and a cover of blues pianist Roosevelt Sykes' "Driving Wheel" (Green's rendition was inspired by a later remake of the song by blues singer Little Junior Parker). Green's original "You Say It" owes a debt to Green's early Memphis singing mentors Sam and Dave.

Hit Number One

Green's title cut of the 1972 LP Let's Stay Together brought him his first number one hit. "This third record," observed Robert Gordon, in the liner notes to the album, "solidified Green's direction. After modeling himself on Sam Cooke and Otis Redding, he established his own style. Writing and co-writing seven of the album's nine tunes, his tendency toward funk is subsumed by his gentle side." In Sweet Soul Music Peter Guralnick also noted the impact of the Green-Mitchell collaboration on the black music scene: "Willie Mitchell and Al Green would soon take soul musicreal, unabashed, wholehearted soul musicto quiet, luxuriantly appointed places it had never been before."

The year 1972 also saw the release of Green's biggest selling album, I'm Still in Love with You, which, with the exception of a token cover of Roy Orbison's "Pretty Woman," is a fine showcase of Green's talent. Green draws upon material from the Doors' "Light My Fire" to Kris Kristofferson's "For the Good Times." On the popular and driving number "Love and Happiness," Green conjures up the dual role of preacher and soul singer to bring forth a pop music classic.

In 1974 Green released the LP Al Green Explores Your Mind on the Hi label. That same year, the momentum of his career suffered a severe setback. While he was climbing out of the bathtub at his home, Green's girlfriend poured a pot of boiling grits on him, causing second-degree burns to his back and arms. The young woman then committed suicide. After recovering from the physical and emotional affects of the much-publicized incident with his former girlfriend, Green recorded the 1976 LP Full Of Fire for the Hi label. Once again joined by the stellar line-up of Wayne Jackson and the Hodges brothers, Green and producer Willie Mitchell, wrote Bill Adler in a Down Beat review, "manage to shuffle around the familiar elements of their formula for success." Though the LP shows signs of disco influence, Green and the Hi studio band maintain a tasteful balance. In 1977 Green, expressing increasing interest in recording gospel music, parted company with Mitchell and without the line-up of the Hi rhythm section recorded the critically acclaimed LP The Belle Album. Though it did bring commercial success, the Belle Album was noted for Green's playing of acoustic and electric guitar and inventive sound techniques. In 1978 Green cut Truth N' Time, an LP that included the gospel songs "Blow Me Down" and "King of All" and a religious treatment of Burt Bacharach's "Say a Little Prayer for Me."

At a Glance

Born April 13, 1946, in Forrest City, Arkansas.

Career: Recording artist, 1969; Full Gospel Tabernacle Church, Memphis, TN, minister, 1976.

Awards: Grammy Awards, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1986, 1987, 1989, 1994; inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 1994; inducted into Gospel Hall of Fame, 2004; inducted into Songwriters Hall of Fame, 2004; BMI, Icon Award, 2004.

Addresses: Office Full Gospel Tabernacle Ministries, PO Box 9485 Memphis, TN, 38109.

Left Secular Music

In the late 1970s Green purchased his own church, The Full Gospel Tabernacle in Memphis, and became the institution's pastor. In 1980 Green left secular popular music to devote himself to religion. Though he had included at least one religious number on his previous LPs, Green's conversion surprised his former producer Mitchell who stated, as quoted in the Chicago Tribune, "I had no idea he was going to become a preacher, but he was always religious." In Black Gospel , Green expressed the work involved in his dual role as singer and pastor: "I have to divide my time between my singing and my church in Memphis and well, I do my best to rightly divide it. And I have to devote a sufficient amount of time to do a good job, which is kinda difficult sometimes. I preach every other Sunday in church, and we have so many members."

A new religious direction led Green to a modern gospel recording career. Green's voice is in fine form on the albums Higher Plane (1981) and Precious Lord (1982). Though recorded for the Hi label, Precious Lord is a polished effort which lacked Mitchell's rich production sound. Taking note of Green's gospel career, Tony Heilbut commented in The Gospel Sound that Green's voice exhibited "a limber falsetto, a breathless crooner, a growling preacherin three-way encounter." In 1982 Green also starred in the stage production Your Arms Too Short to Box with God with Patti LaBelle. He signed with A&M Records in 1985 and recorded three albums for the label, including the 1987 release Soul Survivor. In live performance Green continued to awe audiences. In the New York Times Jon Pareles captured Green's on-stage energy in a review of the singers' performance at New York's Radio City in August of 1987: "He would bring a song down to a whisper; he'd break into his clear, agile falsetto, or show off by walking away from the microphone as he sang, projecting his unassisted voice well past the first 20 rows. Green shifted continually between control and abandon; he skipped and strutted, made faces, stood with seemingly limp arms and then broke into preacherly gesticulations. By the final song he was jumping into the air at musical peaks." The year 1987 also saw the release of his documentary, The Gospel According to Green. The 94-minute documentary, co-written and co-produced by Green and Mitchell, featured concert footage and interviews with the two artists. Most noteworthy is Mitchell's recollections of his experience in the studio with this soul singing icon.

In 1988 Green appeared at the Nelson Mandela Birthday Concert in London; two years later he performed at the John Lennon Memorial Concert at Peir Head, Liverpool. Green's 1989 A&M album I Get Joy contained the lead track "You're Everything to Me"a number, as Bill Dahl described in the Chicago Tribune, that "could just as easily be construed as an ode to a lover as to the Lord." Green's 1991 release, One In a Million, for the Word/Epic label was followed by the LP Love is Reality, a religious-based blend of uptempo numbers immersed in synth-pop and funk rhythms. Love is Reality contained a set of numbers that, as Bill Dahl wrote in the Chicago Tribune, "are nearly indistinguishable from the standard urban contemporary fare, with slick arrangements and occasionally ambiguous lyrics."

By 1993 Green began to once again record secular material, and in the following year appeared in the music film Rhythm, Country, and Blues, a tribute to the musical cultures of Memphis and Nashville. The film's soundtrack, produced by Don Was, featured a number of musical performances by R&B and country stars, including a duet by Green and Lyle Lovett of "(Ain't it Funny) How Time Slips Away." For his 1995 release for MCA Records, Your Heart's in Good Hands, Green was backed by the legendary Memphis Horns.

By the late 1990s, Green had overcome diminishing record sales and was enjoying a surge of fan interest. His song "Take to Me the River" had become, as a result of a 1980s cover by the Talking Heads, his most famous composition; his 1970s hit "Let's Stay Together" attracted renewed interest when it was featured in the film soundtrack to the 1994 film Pulp Fiction. His career received another boost in 1999 when he made a quest appearance on the popular television series Ally McBeal, singing his 1972 song "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart." In 2003, Green worked with his old companion, Willie Mitchell, at his old studio, Hi Records, on the release of I Can't Stop. On this well-reviewed album, Green successfully returned to the sound that made him famous in the 1970s on such tracks as "I Can't Stop" and "Not Tonight." At the same time, he was receiving recognition for the broad range of his work, being inducted into both the Gospel Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2004.

Through stardom, religious sojourns, and self-resurrection as a pop music performer, Green has remained a dynamic artist whose ability easily crosses the borders of secular and religious music. Unlike his mentor Sam Cooke who left the church in the late 1950s to embark on a career in pop music, Green left a successful pop recording career to devote himself to God and church. To many, his periodic crossing over between pop and gospel reveals a sign of inward restlessness. In discussing Green's career, Arnold Shaw in Black Popular Music related that "there is little indication that his immense success as a popular entertainer has brought the serenity he seeks in his colloquies with God." Dividing his time between church and concert stage, Green, whether singing the praises of God or celebrating the temporal joys of life, remains one of the last of the great soul singers.

Selected works

Albums

Green Is Blues, Hi Records, 1970.

Al Green Gets Next to You, Hi Records, 1971.

Let's Stay Together, Hi Records, 1972.

I'm Still in Love with You, Hi Records, 1972.

Al Green Explores Your Mind, Hi Records, 1974.

Greatest Hits, Hi Records, 1975.

Full of Fire, Hi Records, 1976.

The Belle Album, Hi Records, 1977.

Greatest Hits, Volume 2, Motown, 1977.

Truth N' Time, Hi Records, 1978.

Higher Plane, A&M, 1981.

Precious Lord, 1982.

Soul Survivor, A&M, 1987.

I Get Joy, A&M, 1989.

Trust in God, A&M, 1986.

One in a Million, Word/Epic, 1991.

Love Is Reality, Word/Epic, 1992.

Your Heart's in Good Hands, MCA Records, 1995.

Feel's Like Christmas, Capitol, 2001.

I Can't Stop, Blue Note, 2003.

The Immortal Soul of Al Green, Hi/The Right Stuff, 2004.

Other

(With Davin Seay) Take Me to the River (biography), HarperEntertainment, 2000.

Sources

Books

Black Gospel: An Illustrated History of the Gospel Sound, Blanford Press, 1985.

Guralnick, Peter, Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm & Blues and the Southern Dream of Freedom, Harper & Row, 1986.

Heilbut, Tony, The Gospel Sound: Good New and Bad Times, Limelight edition, 1985.

Shaw, Arnold, Black Popular Music in America, Schirmer, 1986.

Periodicals

Chicago Tribune, June 6, 1993.

Down Beat, July 15, 1976.

Ebony, December 2003, p. 32.

Entertainment Weekly, December 5, 2003, p. 44.

Jet, March 1, 2004, p. 14.

New York Times, August 17, 1987; September 9, 1987.

Other

Gordon, Robert, Lets Stay Together (liner notes), Hi Records, 1972.

John Cohassey and

Tom Pendergast

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Green, Al

Al Green

Singer, songwriter

Considered by many music writers as the last true successor of Sam Cooke and Otis Redding, Al Green has enjoyed a long and rewarding career as a pop and gospel singer. His pop and religious works have earned consistent praise from musicians and critics alike. Unlike the great R&B shouters and early soul singers, Green has a voice that, although capable of rich blues-drenched tones and soaring falsetto cries, displays plaintive emotion without harsh delivery or guttural technique. His silken voice landed him a string of million-selling hits in the 1970s. Following his departure from popular music in 1980, he became a member of the ministry and a singer of gospel music. His recent return to pop music and the appearance of his music in documentaries and film soundtracks has once again brought him widespread notice. Able to straddle the fence between secular and religious music, he has devoted himself to the universal message of music.

Sang from an Early Age

Albert Green was born on April 13, 1946, in Forrest City, Arkansas. As a teenager Green and his brothers, Walter, William, and Robert, formed a gospel quartet, The Green Brothers. Though he sang in the gospel group, Green had developed an affinity for both religious and popular music. He stated, as quoted in the book Black Popular Music by Arnold Shaw, "I didn't make distinctions between spiritual and secular music to any great extent back then. If they sang with feeling, from their hearts, I loved the music."

At age 12 Green moved with his family to Grand Rapids, Michigan, a city about 180 miles west of Detroit. Four years later he and several school friends formed a pop group, the Creations. In 1967 the group, renamed Al Green and the Soulmates, recorded the pop hit "Back Up Train" for the Hotline label; the song rose to number five on the R&B charts and number 41 on the Billboard charts. Despite the song's success, the group did not score a follow-up hit and disbanded soon after.

In 1968 Green performed at a club in Midland, Texas, backed by Memphis bandleader and trumpeter Willie Mitchell (who had scored a hit with a remake of King Curtis's instrumental "Soul Serenade"). Impressed with Green's talent, Mitchell, a part-time talent scout and producer for Hi Records in Memphis, invited the young singer to record on the label with the promise that he could make Green a star within a year. About six months later, Green arrived in Memphis. As author Shaw explained in Black Popular Music, "Together, Green and Mitchell sought to forge a style that combined the pop-soul of Detroit's Motown with the down home soul of Memphis's Stax [label], aiming for a black-white synthesis that blended black soul with white pop." In the studio Mitchell assembled a stellar lineup of backing musicians to perform behind Green. They included the family team of guitarist Teenie Hodges, organist Charles Hodges, and bassist Leroy Hodges, as well as veteran members of Booker T. and The MG's and Stax studio drummer Al Jackson Jr. (who had also played with Otis Redding). The music formula put forth by Mitchell and Green proved an outstanding combination. As music writer Peter Guralnick wrote in Sweet Soul Music, "Willie Mitchell and Al Green came up with an old idea phrased in a new way, the last eccentric refinement of Sam Cooke's lyrical gospel-edged style as filtered through the fractured vocal approach of Otis Redding and the peculiarly fragmented vision of Al Green himself."

In 1968 the Green-Mitchell collaboration released a cover of the Beatles' "I Want to Hold Your Hand", as well as a commercially unsuccessful rendition of the Hayes-Porter ballad "One Woman." Not until he recorded a remake of the Temptations' hit "I Can't Get Next to You" did Green establish himself as pop singing star. For Green's next single, "Tired of Being Alone," Mitchell sought a more subtle sound in Green's voice. "We started working, trying to get him to sing softer," explained Mitchell in the Chicago Tribune. "We started coming up with jazz chords—pretty music on top and heavy on the bottom. And it just clicked." Accompanied by Teenie Hodges's relaxed and tasteful guitar work, "Tired of Being Alone" emerged as Green's first smash hit. These singles appeared on Green's 1971 LP Al Green Gets Next to You, which also included Green's gritty number "I'm a Ram," as well as a cover of blues pianist Roosevelt Sykes's "Driving Wheel." (Green's rendition was inspired by a later remake of the song by blues singer Little Junior Parker.) Green's original "You Say It" owes a debt to Green's early Memphis singing mentors Sam and Dave.

Hit Number One

Green's title cut of the 1972 LP Let's Stay Together brought him his first number one hit. "This third record," observed Robert Gordon in the liner notes to the album, "solidified Green's direction. After modeling himself on Sam Cooke and Otis Redding, he established his own style." In Sweet Soul Music, Peter Guralnick also noted the impact of the Green-Mitchell collaboration on the black music scene: "Willie Mitchell and Al Green would soon take soul music—real, unabashed, wholehearted soul music—to quiet, luxuriantly appointed places it had never been before."

The year 1972 also saw the release of Green's biggest selling album, I'm Still in Love with You, which, with the exception of a token cover of Roy Orbison's "Pretty Woman," was a showcase for Green's talent. Green drew upon material ranging from the Doors' "Light My Fire" to Kris Kristofferson's "For the Good Times." On the popular and driving number "Love and Happiness," Green conjured up the dual role of preacher and soul singer, creating a pop music classic.

In 1973, according to his memoir Take Me to the River, Green experienced a religious awakening. He wrote that while staying in a hotel, he was suddenly awakened in the night by shouting: "There was something oddly familiar about the voice. Where had I heard it before? It was then I realized the voice was my own." He added, "Jesus himself had laid in wait for me and picked the moment from out of all eternity to reveal Himself in all His glory and splendor."

In 1974 Green released the LP Al Green Explores Your Mind on the Hi label. That same year, the momentum of his career suffered a severe setback. While he was climbing out of the bathtub at his home, Green's girl-friend poured a pot of boiling grits on him, causing second-degree burns to his back and arms. The young woman then committed suicide. After recovering from the physical and emotional affects of the much-publicized incident, Green recorded the 1976 LP Full Of Fire for the Hi label, once again joined by the stellar line-up of Wayne Jackson and the Hodges brothers. In 1977 Green, expressing increasing interest in recording gospel music, parted company with Mitchell and, without the lineup of the Hi rhythm section, recorded the critically acclaimed LP The Belle Album. The album was noted for Green's playing of acoustic and electric guitar and his use of inventive sound techniques. In 1978 Green cut Truth N' Time, an LP that included the gospel songs "Blow Me Down" and "King of All," and a religious treatment of Burt Bacharach's "Say a Little Prayer for Me."

For the Record …

Born Albert Green on April 13, 1946, in Forrest City, AR.

Recording artist, 1969-; Full Gospel Tabernacle Church, Memphis, TN, minister, 1976-.

Awards: Grammy Awards, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1986, 1987, 1989, 1994; inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 1994; inducted into Gospel Hall of Fame, 2004; inducted into Songwriters Hall of Fame, 2004; BMI, Icon Award, 2004.

Addresses: Office—Full Gospel Tabernacle Ministries, P.O. Box 9485, Memphis, TN 38109. Website—Al Green Official Website: http://www.algreenmusic.com.

Left Secular Music

In the late 1970s Green purchased his own church, The Full Gospel Tabernacle in Memphis, and became the institution's pastor. In 1980 Green left secular popular music to devote himself to religion. In the book Black Gospel, Green explained the work involved in his dual role as singer and pastor: "I have to divide my time between my singing and my church in Memphis and well, I do my best to rightly divide it. And I have to devote a sufficient amount of time to do a good job, which is kinda difficult sometimes."

His new religious direction led Green to a modern gospel recording career, and led to the albums Higher Plane (1981) and Precious Lord (1982). Taking note of Green's gospel career, Tony Heilbut commented in The Gospel Sound that Green's voice exhibited "a limber falsetto, a breathless crooner, a growling preacher—in three-way encounter." In 1982 Green also starred in the stage production Your Arms Too Short to Box with God with Patti LaBelle. He signed with A&M Records in 1985 and recorded three albums for the label, including the 1987 release Soul Survivor. In live performance Green continued to awe audiences. In the New York Times Jon Pareles captured Green's on-stage energy in a review of the singer's performance at New York's Radio City in August of 1987: "He would bring a song down to a whisper; he'd break into his clear, agile falsetto, or show off by walking away from the microphone as he sang, projecting his unassisted voice well past the first 20 rows…. By the final song he was jumping into the air at musical peaks." The year 1987 also saw the release of his documentary, The Gospel According to Green. The 94-minute documentary, cowritten and coproduced by Green and Mitchell, featured concert footage and interviews with the two artists.

In 1988 Green appeared at the Nelson Mandela Birthday Concert in London; two years later he performed at the John Lennon Memorial Concert at Peir Head, Liverpool. Green's 1989 A&M album I Get Joy contained the lead track "You're Everything to Me"—a number, as Bill Dahl described in the Chicago Tribune, that "could just as easily be construed as an ode to a lover as to the Lord." Green's 1991 release, One In a Million, for the Word/Epic label, was followed by the LP Love is Reality, a religious-based blend of up-tempo numbers immersed in synth-pop and funk rhythms. Love is Reality contained a set of numbers that, as Bill Dahl wrote in the Chicago Tribune, "are nearly indistinguishable from the standard urban contemporary fare, with slick arrangements and occasionally ambiguous lyrics."

By 1993 Green began to once again record secular material, and in the following year appeared in the music film Rhythm, Country, and Blues, atributetothe musical cultures of Memphis and Nashville. The film's soundtrack, produced by Don Was, featured a number of musical performances by R&B and country stars, including a duet by Green and Lyle Lovett of "(Ain't it Funny) How Time Slips Away." For his 1995 release for MCA Records, Your Heart's in Good Hands, Green was backed by the legendary Memphis Horns.

By the late 1990s, Green had overcome diminishing record sales and was enjoying a surge of fan interest. His song "Take to Me the River" had become, as a result of a 1980s cover by the Talking Heads, his most famous composition. His 1970s hit "Let's Stay Together" attracted renewed interest when it was featured on the soundtrack to the 1994 film Pulp Fiction. His career received another boost in 1999 when he made a guest appearance on the popular television series Ally McBeal, singing his 1972 song "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart." In 2003 Green worked with his old companion, Willie Mitchell, on the release of I Can't Stop. On this well-reviewed album, Green successfully returned to the sound that made him famous in the 1970s, on such tracks as "I Can't Stop" and "Not Tonight." At the same time, he was receiving recognition for the broad range of his work, with induction into both the Gospel Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2004.

In 2005 Green released Everything's OK, the first album released under his identity as a preacher. According to Gavin Martin in the London Times, the album blends "earthy testifying and high-flying wonderment" and "treads the secular/sacred divide with panache." Ed Bumgardner wrote in the Winston-Salem Journal, "His vocal power is magical." Also in 2005 Green was chosen to headline the Hampton Jazz Festival in June. In the Virginian Pilot, Craig Shapiro commented that the festival's organizers "could hardly have landed a brighter light than Green."

Through stardom, religious sojourns, and self-resurrection as a pop music performer, Green has remained a dynamic artist whose ability easily crosses the borders of secular and religious music. Unlike his mentor Sam Cooke, who left the church in the late 1950s to embark on a career in pop music, Green left a successful pop recording career to devote himself to God and church. In discussing Green's career, Shaw related in his book that "there is little indication that his immense success as a popular entertainer has brought the serenity he seeks in his colloquies with God." Dividing his time between church and concert stage, Green, whether singing the praises of God or celebrating the temporal joys of life, has remained one of the last of the great soul singers.

Selected discography

Green Is Blues, Hi Records, 1970.

Al Green Gets Next to You, Hi Records, 1971.

Let's Stay Together, Hi Records, 1972.

I'm Still in Love with You, Hi Records, 1972.

Al Green Explores Your Mind, Hi Records, 1974.

Greatest Hits, Hi Records, 1975.

Full of Fire, Hi Records, 1976.

The Belle Album, Hi Records, 1977.

Greatest Hits, Volume 2, Motown, 1977.

Truth N' Time, Hi Records, 1978.

Higher Plane, A&M, 1981.

Precious Lord, A&M, 1982.

Soul Survivor, A&M, 1987.

I Get Joy, A&M, 1989.

Trust in God, A&M, 1986.

One in a Million, Word/Epic, 1991.

Love Is Reality, Word/Epic, 1992.

Your Heart's in Good Hands, MCA, 1995.

Feel's Like Christmas, Capitol, 2001.

I Can't Stop, Blue Note, 2003.

The Immortal Soul of Al Green, Hi/The Right Stuff, 2004.

Everything's OK, Blue Note, 2005.

Selected writings

(With Davin Seay) Take Me to the River (biography), HarperEntertainment, 2000.

Sources

Books

Black Gospel: An Illustrated History of the Gospel Sound, Blanford Press, 1985.

Guralnick, Peter, Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm & Blues and the Southern Dream of Freedom, Harper & Row, 1986.

Heilbut, Tony, The Gospel Sound: Good New and Bad Times, Limelight edition, 1985.

Shaw, Arnold, Black Popular Music in America, Schirmer, 1986.

Periodicals

Chicago Tribune, June 6, 1993.

Down Beat, July 15, 1976.

Ebony, December 2003, p. 32.

Entertainment Weekly, December 5, 2003, p. 44.

International Herald Tribune, March 23, 2005, p. 11.

Jet, March 1, 2004, p. 14.

Mirror (London, England), March 25, 2005, p. 12.

New York Times, August 17, 1987; September 9, 1987.

Times (London, England), April 1, 2005, p. 14; April 9, 2005, p. 16.

Virginian Pilot, April 5, 2005, p. E5.

Winston-Salem Journal, March 31, 2005, p. NA.

Additional information was obtained from the liner notes of Let's Stay Together, Gordon Robert, Hi Records, 1972.

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"Green, Al." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. 27 Apr. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Green, Al." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 27, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/green-al-0

"Green, Al." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved April 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/green-al-0