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Albert Greene (popularly known as Al Green), born April 13, 1946 is an American gospel and soul music singer who enjoyed great popularity in the early and mid 1970s.
Green was born in Forrest City, Arkansas. The son of a sharecropper, he started performing at age nine in a Forrest City quartet called the Greene Brothers; he dropped the final "e" from his last name years later as a solo artist. They toured extensively in the mid-1950s in the South until the Greenes moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan, when they began to tour around Michigan. He was kicked out of the group by his father because he was caught listening to Jackie Wilson.
Green formed a group called Al Greene & the Creations in high school. Curtis Rogers and Palmer James, two members of the Creations, formed an independent label called Hot Line Music Journal. In 1967, under the new name Al Greene & the Soul Mates, the band recorded "Back Up Train" and released it on Hot Line Music; the song was an R&B chart hit. The Soul Mates' subsequent singles did not sell as well. Green came into contact with band leader Willie Mitchell of Memphis' Hi Records in 1969, when Mitchell hired him as a vocalist for a Texas show with Mitchell's band and then asked him to sign with the label.
Mitchell predicted stardom for Green, coaching him to find his own,
unique voice at a time when Green had previously been trying to sing
like his heroes Jackie Wilson, Wilson Pickett, James Brown, and Sam
Cooke. Green's debut album with Hi Records was Green Is Blues, a slow,
horn-driven album that allowed Green to show off his powerful and
expressive voice, with Mitchell arranging, engineering and producing.
The album was a moderate success. The next LP, Al Green Gets Next to
You (1970), was a massive success that included four gold singles as
Green developed his vocal and songwriting talents. Let's Stay Together
(1972) was an even bigger success, as was I'm Still In Love With You
(1972). Call Me was a critical sensation, and was also just as popular
at the time; it is one of his most fondly remembered albums today. Al
Green Explores Your Mind (1974) contained the song "Take Me to the
River" covered by the Talking Heads on their second album.
On October 18, 1974, Green's girlfriend, Mary Woodson, poured boiling grits on him as he was showering because he had rejected her marriage proposal. This caused second-degree burns on his back, stomach and arm. She then killed herself in an adjacent bedroom. Deeply shaken, Green converted to Christianity and became an ordained pastor of the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Memphis in 1976. Continuing to record R&B, Green saw his sales start to slip and the critics grew steadily harsher.
1977's The Belle Album was critically acclaimed but did not regain
his former mass audience. In 1979, Green was injured while performing,
and interpreted this accident as a message from God. He then
concentrated his energies towards pastoring his church and gospel
singing, also appearing in 1982 with Patti Labelle in the musical Your
Arms Too Short to Box With God. His first gospel album was The Lord
Will Make a Way. From 1981 to 1989 Green recorded a series of gospel
recordings, garnering eight "soul gospel performance" Grammys in that
period. In 1984 director Robert Mugge released a documentary film,
Gospel According to Al Green, including interviews about his life and
footage from his church.
Return to R&B
After spending several years exclusively performing gospel, Green
began to return to R&B. First, he released a duet with Annie
Lennox, "Put A Little Love In Your Heart" for Scrooged, a Bill Murray
film. In 1989 Green workedwith producer Arthur Baker writing and
producing the international hit "The Message Is Love". His 1994 duet
with country music singer Lyle Lovett blended country with R&B,
garnering him his ninth Grammy, this time in a pop music category.
Green's first secular album in some time was Your Heart's In Good Hands
(1995), released to positive reviews but disappointing sales, the same
year Green was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
In 2000, Green published Take Me to the River, a book discussing his
career. Green received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002.
By 2003 Green released a non-religious (secular) album entitled I
Can't Stop, his first collaboration with Willie Mitchell since 1985's
He is the Light. Then in March 2005 he issued Everything's Ok, as the
follow up to I Can't Stop. Green also collaborated with Mitchell on
this secular CD.
In 2004, Green was inducted into the Gospel Music Association's
Gospel Music Hall of Fame. Green still continues to tour, and to preach
at the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Memphis, Tennessee. Also in 2004,
Rolling Stone Magazine ranked him #65 on their list of the 100 Greatest
Artists of All Time.
Most recently, Al Green was been in the studio with The Roots' Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson, working on Green's next album for Blue Note Records.
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