Al Green

Soul legend Al Green was born in Forrest City, Arkansas on April 13th 1946 and began performing at age nine as part of his father's Gospel group, The Green Brothers. The outfit toured throughout the Southern United States in the mid-'50s, before the family relocated to Grand Rapids, Michigan. The Green Brothers continued to perform in Grand Rapids, but Al's father kicked the boy out of the group after he caught his son listening to Jackie Wilson.

At the age of 16, Al formed a new group, Al Green And The Creations, with several of his high school friends. Two members, Curtis Rogers and Palmer James, started their own independent record company called Hot Line Music Journal, and the group recorded for the label. The Creations then re-named themselves, The Soul Mates. Their first single, "Back Up Train," became a surprise hit, reaching number five on the national R&B charts early in 1968. The Soul Mates followed with more material, but all of their subsequent singles failed to find an audience, prompting Green's decision to work solo.

In 1969, Al met bandleader and Hi Records vice president Willie Mitchell while on tour in Midland, Texas. Impressed with Green's voice, Mitchell signed the singer to his label and began production of Green's first L.P. Released in early 1970, the album "Green is Blues" showcased the signature sound he and Mitchell devised, a sound highlighted by horn punctuations and strings that let Green showcase his remarkable falsetto. While the album didn't contain any hit singles, it was well-received and set the stage for the breakthrough success of his second album. 1970's "Al Green Gets Next To You" contained his first hit single, "Tired of Being Alone", which began a streak of four straight Gold singles. The LP "Let's Stay Together", from 1972, was his first genuine hit album, climbing to number eight on the Billboard Pop chart, with its title track becoming his first number one single. The album "I'm Still In Love With You", which followed only a few months later, had even greater success, reaching number four on Billboard's Hot 200 and launching the hits "Look What You Done For Me" and "I'm Still In Love With You".

Following the release of 1973's "Call Me", Al Green was known as both a hit maker and an artist that released consistently excellent, critically-acclaimed albums. His hit streak continued uninterrupted through the next two years, with "Call Me", "Here I Am", and "Sha-La-La (Make Me Happy)" all becoming Top 10, Gold singles. His personal life, however, was rocked in October 1974. Following an argument, his girlfriend, Mary Woodson, burst in while the singer was taking a bath and poured boiling grits over him, inflicting second-degree burns on his back, stomach and arm. After assaulting Green, she killed herself with his gun. Green interpreted the violent incident as a sign from God that he should enter the ministry. Although he had occasionally recorded Gospel material, a scarred and shaken Green vowed to devote more time to God. Though he had begun to seriously pursue religion, he had not given up singing R&B altogether and released three other Mitchell-produced albums, "Al Green Is Love", in 1975, as well as "Full of Fire" and "Have A Good Time" in 1976. He also bought a church in Memphis and had become an ordained pastor of the Full Gospel Tabernacle. His albums however, began to sound formulaic, and his sales started to slip, with Disco cutting heavily into his audience.

In order to break free from his slump, Green decided to quit working with Willie Mitchell in 1977 and built his own studio, American Music, where he intended to produce his own records. The first album he made at American Music was "The Belle Album", a record that was critically acclaimed but failed to win a crossover audience. "Truth and Time" was issued in 1978, but it did not generate a major R&B hit. During a concert in Cincinnati in 1979, Green accidentally fell off the stage while performing and barely avoided serious injury. Convinced that this near miss was a message from God to abandon secular music, he shifted his focus and began recording albums of a Christian nature, mostly Gospel standards and religious Pop and R&B tunes.

Throughout the '80s, Green released a series of Gospel albums on Myrrh Records. In 1982, he appeared in the Gospel musical Your Arms Too Short to Box with God with Patti Labelle and in 1985, he reunited with Willie Mitchell for "He Is the Light", his first album for A&M Records. Green made a semi-return to R&B in 1988 when he sang "Put A Little Love In Your Heart" with Annie Lennox for the Bill Murray movie, Scrooged. Four years later, he recorded his first full-fledged Soul album since 1978 with the release of "Don't Look Back". In 1995, he released "Your Heart's In Good Hands", an urban contemporary record that represented his first secular album to be released in America since "Truth and Time". Though the album received positive reviews, it failed to become a hit. He was however, inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame that same year.

Since then, several record companies have issued Al Green albums, both Gospel and secular. 2001 alone saw the release of "Simply Beautiful", "Feels Like Christmas", "Love and Happiness", Al Green Sings Gospel", "From My Soul", "Cover Me Green" and "Al Green Presents the Full Gospel Tabernacle". Green continued his ministry at the Full Gospel Tabernacle where he often sang for his congregation. In 2001, his live cover of Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come" was released on the soundtrack to Will Smith's film Ali (the song plays when Muhammad Ali learns of the death of close friend Malcolm X). By 2003 Al released a secular album entitled "I Can't Stop", his first collaboration with Willie Mitchell since 1985's "He is the Light". The duo also produced "Everything's OK" in March, 2005.

In 2004, he 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 included tracks featuring John Legend, Corinne Bailey Rae and Anthony Hamilton. That effort reached number nine on the Billboard Hot 200 chart, his most successful album release in 35 years. In 2009, Al Green, along with Heather Headley, released a version of the song "People Get Ready" on the compilation album "Oh Happy Day: An All-Star Music Celebration". In June 2010, he appeared on the BBC show Friday Night with Jonathan Ross and sang "Let's Stay Together" accompanied by David Gilmour and Jools Holland. 2012 brought a casino filled tour across the United States and in December, 2014 he was recognized as a Kennedy Center Honors recipient. The night after receiving that distinction, Green appeared on The Late Show With David Letterman where he sang two of his biggest hits, "Tired of Being Alone" and "Let's Stay Together". In mid-January, 2017, Al Green was the victim of a Facebook death hoax, but his representatives were quick to dismiss the story and said that the 70-year-old singer was alive and well.

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