After reeling off a string of magnificent, influential hit songs with producer Willie Mitchell in the early 1970’s, soul singer Al Green took a Little Richard turn. Construing the maniacal assault on him by his girlfriend and her subsequent suicide as signs from God, he bought the Full Gospel Tabernacle Church in Memphis and became an ordained minister.
In addition to preaching, he turned to recording and performing gospel music, although he never entirely left pop music. We saw him perform at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis in the early 1980’s, and he mostly toyed with the desire of the audience to hear him sing his great pop songs of the ’70s.
Hearing him sing in person, however, was a revelation. The man could do anything with his voice. It had not previously occurred to me how deeply crafted were the silky voice and the falsetto delivery of his pop hits. He sang gospel with his trademark charisma and romantic persona, but with unbelievable power.
In 1988 he reunited briefly with Willie Mitchell. In 1991, Marc Cohn brought him to mind in Cohn’s visionary “Walking in Memphis” — “Reverend Green be glad to see you, when you haven’t got a prayer.” In 1995 he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
This morning’s Washington Times runs the AP story reporting that Al Green has reunited again with Willie Mitchell, this time to produce “I Can’t Stop,” due out next Tuesday. The story makes for great reading, and it is certainly today’s good news. Cheers!
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