Al Green

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Al Green
Al Green in Washington D.C (cropped).jpg
Green in 2001
Background information
Birth nameAlbert Leornes Greene [1]
Also known asThe Reverend Al Green
Born (1946-04-13) April 13, 1946 (age 73)
Forrest City, Arkansas, US
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • record producer
  • Vocals
  • guitar
Years active1955–present
Associated acts

Albert Leornes Greene [1] (born April 13, 1946), often known as The Reverend Al Green, is an American singer, songwriter and record producer, best known for recording a series of soul hit singles in the early 1970s, including "Take Me to the River", "Tired of Being Alone", "I'm Still in Love with You", "Love and Happiness", and his signature song, "Let's Stay Together". [2] 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". [2] He has also been referred to as "The Last of the Great Soul Singers". [3] Green was included in the Rolling Stone list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time, ranking at No. 65, [4] as well as its list of the 100 Greatest Singers, at No. 14. [5]

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million sq mi (9.8 million km2), the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.93 million sq mi (10.2 million km2). With a population of more than 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the most populous city is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.

Soul music is a popular music genre that originated in the African American community in the United States in the 1950s and early 1960s. It combines elements of African-American gospel music, rhythm and blues and jazz. Soul music became popular for dancing and listening in the United States, where record labels such as Motown, Atlantic and Stax were influential during the Civil Rights Movement. Soul also became popular around the world, directly influencing rock music and the music of Africa.

This article includes an overview of the major events and trends in popular music in the 1970s.


Early life

Albert Leornes Greene was born on April 13, 1946, in Forrest City, Arkansas. [6] The sixth of ten children born to Cora Lee and Robert G. Greene, Jr., a sharecropper, 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. [7] Al was kicked out of the family home while in his teens, after his devoutly religious father caught him listening to Jackie Wilson. [8]

Forrest City, Arkansas City in Arkansas, United States

Forrest City is a city in St. Francis County, Arkansas, United States, and the county seat. It was named for General Nathan Bedford Forrest, who used the location as a campsite for a construction crew completing a railroad between Memphis and Little Rock, shortly after the Civil War. The population was 15,371 at the 2010 census, an increase from 14,774 in 2000. The city refers to itself as the "Jewel of the Delta".

Arkansas State of the United States of America

Arkansas is a state in the southern region of the United States, home to over 3 million people as of 2018. Its name is of Siouan derivation from the language of the Osage denoting their related kin, the Quapaw Indians. The state's diverse geography ranges from the mountainous regions of the Ozark and the Ouachita Mountains, which make up the U.S. Interior Highlands, to the densely forested land in the south known as the Arkansas Timberlands, to the eastern lowlands along the Mississippi River and the Arkansas Delta.

Grand Rapids, Michigan City in Michigan, United States

Grand Rapids is the second-largest city in Michigan and the largest city in West Michigan. It is on the Grand River about 30 miles (48 km) east of Lake Michigan. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 188,040. In 2010, the Grand Rapids metropolitan area had a population of 1,005,648, and the combined statistical area of Grand Rapids-Muskegon-Holland had a population of 1,321,557. Grand Rapids is the county seat of Kent County.

"I also listened to Mahalia Jackson, all the great gospel singers. But the most important music to me was those hip-shakin’ boys: Wilson Pickett and Elvis Presley. I just loved Elvis Presley. Whatever he got, I went out and bought."[ citation needed ]

Mahalia Jackson American gospel singer

Mahalia Jackson was an American gospel singer. Possessing a contralto voice, she was referred to as "The Queen of Gospel". She became one of the most influential gospel singers in the world and was heralded internationally as a singer and civil rights activist. She was described by entertainer Harry Belafonte as "the single most powerful black woman in the United States". She recorded about 30 albums during her career, and her 45 rpm records included a dozen "golds"—million-sellers.

Wilson Pickett American singer

Wilson Pickett was an American singer and songwriter.

Elvis Presley American singer and actor

Elvis Aaron Presley, also known mononymously as Elvis, was an American singer, musician, and actor. Regarded as one of the most significant cultural icons of the 20th century, he is often referred to as the "King of Rock and Roll" or simply "the King".

In high school, Al formed a vocal group called Al Greene & the Creations. [9] 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", releasing it on Hot Line Music. The song was a hit on the R&B charts. However, the group's subsequent follow-ups failed to chart, as did their debut album Back Up Train. While performing with the Soul Mates, Green came into contact with Memphis record producer Willie Mitchell, who hired him in 1969 to be a vocalist for a Texas show with Mitchell's band. Following the performance, Mitchell asked Green to sign with his Hi Records label.[ citation needed ]

<i>Back Up Train</i> 1967 studio album by Al Greene

Back Up Train is Al Green's debut album, released by Hot Line Records, a label formed by Palmer James and Curtis Rodgers, high school friends of Al Green's. This album was released prior to signing with Hi Records and still lists his name as "Greene".

The Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart ranks the most popular R&B and hip hop songs in the United States and is published weekly by Billboard. Rankings are based on a measure of radio airplay, sales data, and streaming activity. The chart had 100 positions but was shortened to 50 positions in October 2012.

Willie Mitchell (musician) American record producer and arranger

William Lawrence Mitchell was an American trumpeter, bandleader, soul, R&B, rock and roll, pop and funk record producer and arranger who ran Royal Studios in Memphis, Tennessee. He was best known for his Hi Records label of the 1970s, which released albums by a large stable of popular Memphis soul artists, including Mitchell himself, Al Green, O. V. Wright, Syl Johnson, Ann Peebles and Quiet Elegance.


Early success

Having noted that Green had been trying to sing like Jackie Wilson, Sam Cooke, Wilson Pickett, and James Brown, Mitchell became his vocal mentor, coaching him into finding his own voice. Before releasing his first album with Hi, Green removed the final "e" from his name. Subsequently, he released Green Is Blues (1969), which was a moderate success. His follow-up album, Al Green Gets Next to You (1971), 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 a million copies and was certified gold, becoming the first of seven consecutive gold singles Green would record in the next couple of years.[ citation needed ]

Jackie Wilson African-American soul singer-songwriter and performer

Jack Leroy Wilson Jr. was an African American soul singer and performer. A tenor with a four-octave range, Wilson was a prominent figure in the transition of rhythm and blues into soul. Wilson was considered a master showman and one of the most dynamic singers and performers in pop, R&B, and rock & roll history, earning the nickname "Mr. Excitement".

Sam Cooke American singer-songwriter

Samuel Cook, known professionally as Sam Cooke, was an American singer, songwriter, civil-rights activist and entrepreneur.

James Brown American singer, songwriter, musician, and recording artist

James Joseph Brown was an American singer, songwriter, dancer, musician, record producer and bandleader. A progenitor of funk music and a major figure of 20th-century music and dance, he is often referred to as the "Godfather of Soul". In a career that lasted 50 years, he influenced the development of several music genres.

Green in an appearance on The Mike Douglas Show in 1973 Al Green 1973.jpg
Green in an appearance on The Mike Douglas Show in 1973

Green's next album, Let's Stay Together (January 1972), solidified his place in soul music. The title track was his biggest hit to date, reaching number one on both the Billboard Hot 100 and R&B charts. The album became his first to be certified gold. His follow-up, I'm Still in Love with You (October 1972) went platinum with the help of the singles "Look What You Done for Me" and the title track, both of which went to the top ten on the Hot 100. His next album, Call Me (April 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 album Livin' for You (December 1973) was his last album to be certified gold.[ citation needed ]

<i>Lets Stay Together</i> (Al Green album) 1972 studio album by Al Green

Let's Stay Together is a 1972 album by the soul singer Al Green, and is the follow-up to his moderate success Al Green Gets Next to You. It was recorded at Royal Recording Studio, 1320 S. Lauderdale, 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. It is best known for the title track "Let's Stay Together", which became Green's signature song and his only number-one pop hit single. The album was the third produced by Willie Mitchell and marked the beginning of Green's classic period of critically acclaimed albums. Let's Stay Together was reissued in 2003 by The Right Stuff.

Lets Stay Together (Al Green song) single

"Let's Stay Together" is a song by American singer Al Green from his 1972 album of the same name. It was produced and recorded by Willie Mitchell, and mixed by Mitchell and Terry Manning. Released as a single in 1971, "Let's Stay Together" reached number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, and remained on the chart for 16 weeks and also topped Billboard's R&B chart for nine weeks. Billboard ranked it as the number 11 song of 1972.

The Billboard Hot 100 is the music industry standard record chart in the United States for songs, published weekly by Billboard magazine. Chart rankings are based on sales, radio play, and online streaming in the United States.

In addition to these hit singles, Green also had radio hits with songs such as "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", later covered successfully by new wave band Talking Heads and blues artist Syl Johnson. Green continued to record successful R&B hits in the next several years including "Livin' for You", "Let's Get Married", "Sha-La-La (Makes Me Happy)", "L-O-V-E (Love)" and "Full of Fire". By the time Green released the album, The Belle Album in 1977, however, Green's record sales had plummeted, partially due to Green's own personal issues during this time and his desire to become a minister. [10] His last Hi Records album, Truth n' Time , was released in 1978 and failed to become a success. Two years later, he left Hi for Myrrh Records and recorded only gospel music for the next decade and a half.[ citation needed ]

Gospel recordings

Green's first gospel album, The Lord Will Make a Way , was released in 1980. The title song from the album would later win Green his first of eight Grammy Awards in the Best Soul Gospel Performance category. In 1982, Green co-starred with Patti LaBelle in the Broadway play, "Your Arms Too Short to Box with God". [11] 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.

Return to secular music

Green returned to secular music in 1988 recording "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 . [12] 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. [13] The one single released from the album, "Keep On Pushing Love", was described as "invoking the original, sparse sound of his [Green's] early classics." [14]

Green performing at the Sonoma Jazz festival, May 23, 2008 Al Green@SonomaJazz2008.jpg
Green performing at the Sonoma Jazz festival, May 23, 2008

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. [15] 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. [16] 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. [17] In 2009, Green recorded "People Get Ready" with Heather Headley on the album, Oh Happy Day: An All-Star Music Celebration . [18] In 2010, Green performed "Let's Stay Together" on Later... with Jools Holland .

On September 13, 2018, Al Green released his first new recording in almost over ten years. Before the next teardrop falls, most famously recorded by Freddy Fender in 1975, was produced by Matt Ross-Spang and is part of Amazon Music's new "Produced By" series. [19]

On June 25, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed Al Green among hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire. [20]

Personal life

On October 18, 1974, shortly after Al Green Explores Your Mind was released, Mary Woodson White, his girlfriend, assaulted him before committing suicide at his Memphis home. [21] Although she was already married, White became upset when Green refused to marry her. [22] She doused him with a pot of boiling grits while he was bathing, causing severe burns on Green's back, stomach, and arms, [23] then killed herself with his .38 handgun. Police found a note inside White's purse that declared her intentions and her reasons. [24]

Green cited the incident as a wake-up call to change his life. [21] He became an ordained pastor of the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Memphis in 1976. [25] Continuing to record R&B, Green saw his sales start to slip and drew mixed reviews from critics. In 1978, Green was charged with battery for allegedly beating Lovie Smith unconscious with a tree limb. The charges were dismissed after Smith, who had moved, did not receive a subpoena and therefore missed the court date. [26] In 1979, Green injured himself falling off the stage while performing in Cincinnati and took 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. 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. [27]

In June 1977, Green married Shirley Kyles. [1] Shirley filed for divorce in 1978 and 1981. [1] In the final divorce complaint, Shirley alleged that Green had been subjecting her to domestic violence throughout their marriage. [1] Green accused her of "cruel and inhuman treatment" in a countercomplaint. In a sworn deposition in 1982 as part of her divorce filing, Shirley testified that in 1978 while five months pregnant, Green beat her with a boot for refusing to have sex. The assault resulted in head wounds, one which required stitches. After the incident she filed for divorce, but they reconciled. According to Shirley, they separated several times when the beatings became "too frequent and too severe." [1] Initially, Green denied beating his wife, but under oath in 1982 he admitted to spousal abuse. Their divorce was finalized in February 1983. In 1995, the story of Nicole Brown Simpson inspired Shirley to go public with the abuse she endured in order to help other victims. [1]

Green has six children; two sons, Al Green, Jr., and Trevor; four daughters, Alva, Rubi, Kora (with Shirley Kyles), and Kala. [28] He resides and preaches in Memphis, near Graceland, [29] while he is a member of the Prince Hall Masons, the African-American wing of Freemasonry, at the Thirty-Third Degree. [30]

Green's sister Maxine disappeared in September 2013 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. [31]


Studio albums

Awards and honors

Green was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995. In 2004, he was inducted into the Gospel Music Association's Gospel Music Hall of Fame. That same year, he was inducted into The Songwriters Hall of Fame. [32] Also in 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked him No. 65 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. [4] He was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2009 BET Awards on June 24, 2009. [33]

On August 26, 2004, Green was honored as a BMI Icon at the annual BMI Urban Awards. He joined a list of previous Icon honorees that included R&B legends James Brown, Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Bo Diddley. [34]

In 2009, Al Green was inducted into the Michigan Rock and Roll Legends Hall of Fame. [35]

Green was recognized on December 7, 2014, as a Kennedy Center Honors recipient. [36]

See also

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Further reading