Albert Leornes Greene was born on April 13th, 1946 in Forrest City, Arkansas. In high school, Al formed a vocal group called Al Greene & the Creations and 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” records. The song was a hit and in 1969 he signed to “Hi” records, where he released many 45’s and albums and enjoyed great commercial success. “Don’t Leave Me” shares the same backing as the Northern classic “Sweet Sherry” and this disc from 1972 is in EXCELLENT condition, worth checking out the equally great flip!!
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)“. 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’s album Livin’ for You (December 1973) was certified gold. He continued to record successful R&B hits in the next several years including “Livin’ for You“, “Sha-La-La (Makes Me Happy)” from his album Al Green Explores Your Mind, “Let’s Get Married”, “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. His last Hi Records album, Truth n’ Time, was released in 1978 and failed to become a success.
Continuing to record R&B, Green saw his sales start to slip and drew mixed reviews from critics. In 1979, he 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 music.
From 1981 to 1989 Green recorded a series of gospel albums.While still under contract with Hi Records, Green released the 1980 album, The Lord Will Make a Way, his first of six albums on the Christian label Myrrh Records. 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“. In 1984, director Robert Mugge released a documentary film, Gospel According to Al Green, including interviews about his life and footage from his church. In 1985, he reunited with Willie Mitchell along with Angelo Earl for He Is the Light, his first album for A&M Records. His 1987 follow-up, Soul Survivor, featured the minor hit, “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright”, which reached number 22 on the Billboard 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. 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. 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.”
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.
Green’s 2008 album, Lay It Down, was produced by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson and James Poyser. 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. 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.”
In 2009, Green recorded “People Get Ready” with Heather Headley on the album, Oh Happy Day: An All-Star Music Celebration. 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. It was produced by Matt Ross-Spang and is part of Amazon Music’s new “Produced By” series.
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