Manage episode 323064059 series 2943922
Al Green is often referred to as ‘The Last of the Great Soul Singers’. In the 1970s the masterpieces he released, like ‘Let’s stay together’ and ‘Tired of being alone’, were in part due to record producer and vocal mentor Willie Mitchell, who signed him to his label Hi Records.
Mitchell's influence stretches from the Rolling Stones, Talking Heads, Wu-Tang Clan, to Kanye West. Back then, Green enjoyed seven consecutive million-seller hits. But slap-bang in the middle of his success, he was ‘born again’, brought on after his girlfriend, Mary Woodson White, poured a load of grits (boiled cornmeal) over him, causing severe burns before committing suicide.
She was furious he wouldn’t marry her despite the fact that she was already married. By '76, Green had become a Reverend, and in '78, when his commercial success faded, he started recording Gospel music for which he won eight Grammys over a period of a decade.
In 1988, he returned to his soul roots and alongside Annie Lennox, recorded ‘Put a little love in your heart’. A year later he released ‘The message is Love’ with Arthur Baker. By the time I met Reverend Al Green at the Full Gospel Tabernacle in '93 for an MTV News at Night special on Memphis, he had released the widely underrated album, ‘Don’t Look Back’, which featured the song ‘Love is a beautiful thing’.
He played and sang for us. That particular song starts with the words ‘This is what I believe’ and towards the end references his greatest hits. When I asked him about his own influences, he cited Elvis Presley. He told me that Elvis was the forerunner, not only for him but for all others of his era. Green had bought all Elvis’s music and told me that he had met him in the urinal of a Beale Street club in Memphis, where they instantly bonded. Later, in an often repeated quote, he has said he would have shaken Elvis’s hand but it just didn’t seem appropriate at the time!
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