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Al Green was the first great soul singer of the '70s and arguably the last great Southern soul singer. With his seductive singles for Hi Records in the early '70s, Green bridged the gap between deep soul and smooth Philadelphia soul. He incorporated elements of gospel, interjecting his performances with wild moans and wails, but his records were stylish, boasting immaculate productions that rolled along with a tight beat, sexy backing vocals, and lush strings. The distinctive Hi Records sound that the vocalist and producer Willie Mitchell developed made Al Green the most popular and influential soul singer of the early '70s, influencing not only his contemporaries, but also veterans like Marvin Gaye. Green was at the peak of his popularity when he suddenly decided to join the ministry in the mid-'70s. At first, he continued to record secular material, but by the '80s, he was concentrating solely on gospel. During the late '80s and '90s, he occasionally returned to R&B, but he remained primarily a religious performer for the rest of his career. Nevertheless, Green's classic early- '70s recordings retained their power and influence throughout the decades, setting the standard for smooth soul.
Green was born in Forrest City, AR, where he formed a gospel quartet, the Green Brothers, at the age of nine. The group toured throughout the South in the mid-'50s, before the family relocated to Grand Rapids, MI. The Green Brothers continued to perform in Grand Rapids, but Al's father kicked the boy out of the group after he caught his son listening to Jackie Wilson. At the age of 16, Al formed an R&B group, Al Green & the Creations, with several of his high-school friends. Two Creation members, Curtis Rogers and Palmer James, founded their own independent record company, Hot Line Music Journal, and had the group record for the label. By that time, the Creations had been re-named the Soul Mates. The group's first single, "Back Up Train," became a surprise hit, climbing to number five on the R&B charts early in 1968. The Soul Mates attempted to record another hit, but all of their subsequent singles failed to find an audience.
In 1969, Al Green met bandleader and Hi Records vice president Willie Mitchell while on tour in Midland, Texas. Impressed with Green's voice, he signed the singer to Hi Records, and began collaborating with Al on his debut album. Released in early 1970, Green's debut album, Green Is Blues, showcased the signature sound he and Mitchell devised -- a sinewy, sexy groove highlighted by horn punctuations and string beds that let Green showcase his remarkable falsetto. While the album didn't spawn any hit singles, it was well-received and set the stage for the breakthrough success of his second album. Al Green Gets Next to You (1970) launched his first hit single, "Tired of Being Alone," which began a streak of four straight gold singles. Let's Stay Together (1972) was his first genuine hit album, climbing to number eight on the pop charts; its title track became his first number one single. I'm Still in Love With You, which followed only a few months later, was an even greater success, peaking at number four and launching the hits "Look What You Done for Me" and "I'm Still in Love With You."
By the release of 1973's Call Me, Green was known as both a hitmaker and an artist who released consistently engaging, frequently excellent, critically-acclaimed albums. His hits continued uninterrupted through the next two years, with "Call Me," "Here I Am," and "Sha-La-La (Make Me Happy)" all becoming Top Ten gold singles. At the height of his popularity, Green's former girlfriend, Mrs. Mary Woodson, broke into his Memphis home in October 1974 and poured boiling grits on the singer as he was bathing, inflicting second-degree burns on his back, stomach, and arm; after assaulting Green, she killed herself with his gun. Green interpreted the violent incident as a sign from God that he should enter the ministry. By 1976, he had bought a church in Memphis and had become an ordained pastor of the Full Gospel Tabernacle. Though he had begun to seriously pursue religion, he had not given up singing R&B and he released three other Mitchell-produced albums -- Al Green Is Love (1975), Full of Fire (1976), Have a Good Time (1976) -- after the incident. However, his albums began to sound formulaic, and his sales started to slip by the end of 1976, with disco cutting heavily into his audience.
In order to break free from his slump, Green stopped working with Willie Mitchell in 1977 and built his own studio, American Music, where he intended to produce his own records. The first album he made at American Music was The Belle Album, an intimate record that was critically acclaimed but failed to win a crossover audience. Truth and Time (1978) failed to even generate a major R&B hit. During a concert in Cincinnati in 1979, Green fell off the stage and nearly injured himself seriously. Interpreting the accident as a sign from God, Green retired from performing secular music and devoted himself to preaching. Throughout the '80s, he released a series of gospel albums on Myrrh Records. In 1982, Green appeared in the gospel musical Your Arms Too Short to Box With God with Patti Labelle. In 1985, he reunited with Willie Mitchell for He Is the Light, his first album for A&M Records.
Green tentatively returned to R&B in 1988 when he sang "Put a Little Love in Your Heart" with Annie Lennox for the Bill Murray comedy Scrooged. Four years later, he recorded his first full-fledged soul album since 1978 with the U.K.-only Don't Look Back. Al Green was inducted to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1995. That same year, he released Your Heart's in Good Hands, an urban contemporary record that represented his first secular album to be released in America since Truth and Time. Though the album received positive reviews, it failed to become a hit. Green did achieve widespread recognition eight years later with his first album for Blue Note, I Can't Stop. One and a half years later, he followed it with Everything's OK. His third Blue Note album, 2008's Lay It Down, featured an updated sound that still echoed the feel of his classic earlier soul style.
Albert Greene (born April 13, 1946), better known as Al Green or Reverend Al Green, is an American singer, better known for scoring 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". 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". Green was included in the Rolling Stone list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time, ranking at No. 66.
Life and career 
Early life 
Albert Greene was born in Forrest City, Arkansas. 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. Raised in a religiously devout family, Al was kicked out of the family home in his teens after his father caught him listening to Jackie Wilson.
While in high school, Al formed a vocal group called Al Greene & The Creations. Two of the group's members, Curtis Rogers 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 charted 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 Willie Mitchell in 1969 after Mitchell hired him to be a vocalist for a Texas show with Mitchell's band. Following the performance, Mitchell asked Al to sign with his Hi Records label, to which Al agreed.
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 afterwards, 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 Green's 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. 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". 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. 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. The one single released from the album, "Keep On Pushing Love (song)|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". In 2003, Green again reunited with Willie Mitchell on 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. 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. 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. 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.
Personal life 
The 'grits' incident 
On October 18, 1974, Mary Woodson White, a girlfriend of Green's, assaulted him before committing suicide at his Memphis home. Although she was already married, White reportedly became upset when Green refused to marry her, some four months after he peaked at No. 32 on the Hot 100 with the ironically titled "Let's Get Married". At some point during the evening, White doused Green with a pan of boiling grits while he was showering, causing severe burns on Green's back, stomach and arms. She then found his .38 and killed herself. The police found in her purse a note declaring her intentions and her reasons. "The more I trust you," she'd written, "the more you let me down."
Turn to the ministry 
Green cited the incident as a wake-up call to change his life. He became an ordained pastor of the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Memphis in 1976 and continues to serve in this capacity, delivering services down the street from Graceland. 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. According to Glide Magazine, "by the late 70s, he had begun concentrating almost exclusively on gospel music." 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 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.
In 2004, Green was inducted into the Gospel Music Association's Gospel Music Hall of Fame. In the same year he was inducted into The Songwriters Hall of Fame. Also in 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked him No. 65 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. He was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2009 BET Awards on June 24, 2009 .
On August 26, 2004, Green was honored as a BMI Icon at the annual BMI Urban Awards. He joined an impressive list of previous Icon honorees including R&B legends James Brown, Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Bo Diddley