Thursday, July 18, 2013

Al Green--Let's Stay Together (1971)

     Whatever church preachers or atheists might say to the contrary, the line between the sacred and the profane is a pretty narrow when it comes to Soul music. After all, Ray Charles basically took the music from the Sunday morning meeting to Saturday night dance with no diluting of the form whatsoever. Of course, it could be argued that the emotions which fuel love for God are similar to the ones which fuel our passions in other areas. No one artist in the early 70's exemplified those emotions on both sides than the Reverend Al Green.
     Albert Greene was one of ten children born into a sharecropper's family in Forrest City, Arkansas. There was music in the home, and as they moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan Albert joined in a singing group with his brothers. They did some touring around the area, until his devoutly religious  father kicked him out of the group after catching the youngster listening to Jackie Wilson.
     While in high school, he started a group called, Al Greene & the Creations (later The Soul Mates), where they made a few recordings and caught the attention of a musician named Willie Mitchell who also owned Hi Records. The band leader hired Greene to front the band for a gig, and after it was impressed enough to offer the young singer a contract.
     Mitchell not only became his boss, but his mentor as they tried to find a vocal style. The first thing the men did was drop the "E" from Greene's name. His first two albums and several singles showed promise, and with the top 20 single, "Tired of Being Alone" in the fall of 1971, the ball really began to roll.  "Let's Stay Together" became his first and only number one, although the next seven singles over the entirety of 1972 and 73 all went top 20.  
      His life began to change however in 1974 after an incident where his then girlfriend, threw boiling grits on him after he told her that he was not interested in marriage. she then found his .38 pistol and killed herself. Besides being burned badly, her death started him on a path which led him to the ministry. He became an ordained minister at the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Memphis in 1976. He continued to tour and record, but by 1978 he was totally devoting himself to gospel music, which he would do for the next ten years.
     In 1988 he returned to secular music with, "Put a Little Love in Your Heart", a duet with Annie Lennox which was featured in the movie, "Scrooged" with Bill Murray. This began a comeback which is still ongoing as his latest album, "Lay It Down" in 2008 was his first top ten album in 35 years. He still continues  minister as the pastor of the Full Gospel Tabernacle.



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