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Al Green

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Title: Al Green  
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Subject: Royal Studios, 1972 in music, The Belle Album, Here I Am (Come and Take Me), Al Green Explores Your Mind
Collection: 1946 Births, A&M Records Artists, African-American Christians, African-American Musicians, African-American Singers, American Gospel Singers, American Male Singers, American Pentecostals, American Pop Singers, American Protestants, American Rhythm and Blues Singer-Songwriters, American Soul Guitarists, American Soul Singers, American Tenors, Bell Records Artists, Blue Note Records Artists, Fat Possum Records Artists, Gospel Music Hall of Fame Inductees, Grammy Award Winners, Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award Winners, Hi Records Artists, Living People, McA Records Artists, Members of the Church of God in Christ, Musicians from Arkansas, Musicians from Michigan, Musicians from Tennessee, People from Grand Rapids, Michigan, People from Kent County, Michigan, People from Memphis, Tennessee, People from Shelby County, Tennessee, Rca Records Artists, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees, Smooth Jazz Musicians, Songwriters from Arkansas, Songwriters Hall of Fame Inductees
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Al Green

Al Green
Green in concert at the Chumash Casino Resort, Santa Ynez, California, July 2006.
Background information
Birth name Albert Greene
Also known as The Reverend Al Green
Born (1946-04-13) April 13, 1946
Forrest City, Arkansas, U.S.
Genres R&B, soul, smooth soul, blues, gospel
Occupation(s) Pastor, vocalist, producer, songwriter
Instruments Vocals, guitar
Years active 1967–present
Labels Hi, Myrrh, The Right Stuff, Fat Possum Records
Associated acts The Creations, Willie Mitchell, Quiet Elegance

Albert "Al" Greene (born April 13, 1946), often known as The Reverend Al Green, is an American singer best known for recording a series of soul hit singles in the early 1970s, including "Tired of Being Alone", "I'm Still In Love With You", "Love and Happiness" and his signature song, "Let's Stay Together".[1] 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".[1] He has also been referred to as "The Last of the Great Soul Singers".[2][3] Green was included in the Rolling Stone list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time, ranking at No. 66.[4]


  • Life and career 1
    • Early life 1.1
    • Early success 1.2
    • Gospel recordings and return to secular music 1.3
  • Personal life 2
    • Death of Mary Woodson White 2.1
    • Turn to the ministry 2.2
    • Marriage to Shirley Kyles 2.3
  • Discography 3
  • Books 4
  • Awards and honors 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8
  • External links 9

Life and career

Early life

Al Green was born Albert Greene on April 13, 1946 in Forrest City, Arkansas.[5] 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 around the age of ten. The Greene family relocated to Grand Rapids, Michigan in the late 1950s.[6] Al was kicked out of the family home in his teens after his religiously devout father caught him listening to Jackie Wilson.[7]

"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."

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", releasing it on Hot Line Music. The song became a chart 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, Al came into contact with Memphis record producer Willie Mitchell in 1969 when Mitchell hired him to be a vocalist for a Texas show with Mitchell's band. Following the performance, Mitchell asked Al to sign for his Hi Records label.

Early success

Having noted that Al 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, Green released Green Is Blues, which became a moderate success. Green's follow-up album, Al Green Gets Next to You, featured Green's 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, solidified his place in soul music with the title track becoming 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 went platinum with the help of the singles, "Look What You Done for Me" and the title track, both of which went top ten on the Hot 100. His next album, 1973's Call Me spawned three top ten singles including "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, released at the tail-end of 1973, became his last album to be certified gold.

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.[8] 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.

Gospel recordings and return to secular music

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 on the Broadway play, "Your Arms Too Short to Box with God".[9] 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.

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.[10] 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 same period when Green was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.[11] 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."[12]

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.[13] 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 featured duets with Anthony Hamilton and Corinne Bailey Rae.[14] 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.[15] In 2009, Green recorded "People Get Ready" with Heather Headley on the album, Oh Happy Day: An All-Star Music Celebration.[16] In 2010, Green performed "Let's Stay Together" on Later... with Jools Holland.

Personal life

Death of Mary Woodson White

On October 18, 1974, shortly after Al Green Explores Your Mind was released, Mary Woodson White, a girlfriend of Green's, assaulted him before committing suicide at his Memphis home.[17] Although she was already married, White reportedly became upset when Green refused to marry her.[18] At some point during the evening, White doused Green with a pan of boiling grits while he was bathing, causing severe burns on Green's back, stomach and arms.[19] She then found his .38 and killed herself. In her purse, police found a note declaring her intentions and her reasons.

Turn to the ministry

Green cited the incident with White as a wake-up call to change his life.[17] He became an ordained pastor of the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Memphis in 1976.[20] Continuing to record R&B, Green saw his sales start to slip and drew mixed reviews from critics. 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. 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.[21]

Green preaches in Memphis, Tennessee[20] near Graceland.[22]

Marriage to Shirley Kyles

In June 1977, Green married Shirley Kyles.[23] They had three daughters together, Alva, Rubi and Kora.[23] The marriage lasted until January 1983. Shirley later alleged that Green had been subjecting her to domestic violence throughout their marriage.[23]



  • Green, A. with Seay, D. (2009), Take Me to the River, Chicago Review Press, ISBN 978-1556528101

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.[24] 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 .[25]

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.[26]

Green was recognized on December 7, 2014, as a Kennedy Center Honors recipient.[27]

See also


  1. ^ a b "Al Green".  
  2. ^ Zak Smith (January 22, 2014). "The 10 Greatest Al Green Songs". Retrieved April 18, 2014. 
  3. ^ All Music Guide to Soul: The Definitive Guide to R&B and Soul - Google Books. Retrieved April 18, 2014. 
  4. ^ a b  
  5. ^ "Al Green: Biography". Archived from the original on April 12, 2008. Retrieved February 27, 2008. 
  6. ^ Darden, Robert; Darden, Bob (2005). People Get Ready!: A New History of Black Gospel Music. Continuum International Publishing Group. p. 296.  
  7. ^ Booth, Stanley (2000). Rhythm Oil: A Journey Through the Music of the American South. Da Capo Press. p. 150.  
  8. ^ Strong, Martin C.; Peel, John (2004). The Great Rock Discography: Complete Discographies Listing Every Track Recorded by More Than 1,200 Artists. Canongate U.S. p. 628.  
  9. ^ : A Soaring Celebration in Song and Dance"Your Arms Too Short to Box With God". Retrieved August 7, 2008. 
  10. ^ Tucker, Ken (January 25, 1991). "Good Sports". Entertainment Weekly. 
  11. ^ Van Til, Reinder; Olson, Gordon (2007). Thin Ice: Coming of Age in Grand Rapids. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. pp. 225–226.  
  12. ^ "Al Green - Your Heart's In Good Hands CD Album". November 7, 1995. Retrieved April 18, 2014. 
  13. ^ Cohen, Jonathan (December 14, 2006). "The Roots Plot Tour, ?uestlove Reworks Pharrell". Billboard. 
  14. ^ Jurek, Thom. : Album Review"Lay It Down". Archived from the original on May 31, 2008. Retrieved August 7, 2008. 
  15. ^ "News". Rolling Stone. Retrieved November 6, 2011. 
  16. ^ """Jon Bon Jovi, Queen Latifah go gospel for "Day. Reuters. March 27, 2009. 
  17. ^ a b Brunner, Rob (October 20, 2000). "Al Green's conversion". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved October 26, 2015. 
  18. ^ Kim, Alice (May 17, 2002). "Al Green loves and cherishes the booty". The Stanford Daily. Archived from the original on May 14, 2008. Retrieved August 7, 2008. 
  19. ^ Sullivan, James (February 22, 2008). "Twisted Tales: Al Green Finds Salvation, Served Scalding Hot". Retrieved August 7, 2008. 
  20. ^ a b "TripAdvisor: Full Gospel Tabernacle Church - Memphis, TN". 
  21. ^ "Al Green (1946–)". Retrieved August 7, 2008. 
  22. ^ Mastropolo, Frank (October 17, 2014). "Pure Agony: Al Green Scalded by Hot Grits 40 Years Ago". Retrieved November 9, 2014. 
  23. ^ a b c "Silent No Longer". Chicago Tribune. March 1, 1995. Retrieved May 25, 2013. 
  24. ^ "Al Green Exhibit Home". Songwriters Hall of Fame. Retrieved April 18, 2014. 
  25. ^ "Al Green to scoop lifetime gong". BBC News (BBC). May 16, 2008. Retrieved January 1, 2010. 
  26. ^ "BMI Celebrates Urban Music at 2004 Awards with Top Writers, Producers, Publishers". Archived from the original on September 20, 2010. Retrieved October 13, 2010. 
  27. ^ "Tom Hanks, Lily Tomlin, Sting to Receive Kennedy Center Honors". Retrieved October 10, 2015. 

Further reading

External links

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