Al Green was one of the major soul singers of the 1970s, although he actually began in 1967 and still performs to this day. He is also known as “the Reverend Al Green,” having become a pastor in 1976 before recording gospel music in the 1980s. He is still active in the ministry, preaching near Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee. Some call him “the last of the great soul singers,” due to his position as one of the few majorly influential smooth soul artists who still takes to the stage in the modern era.
Known for his jovial sound and the sheer passion that he takes to every performance, Al Green has a number of smooth singles, most of which are love songs. Although Green is a vocalist, many of his songs are remembered for their background music, especially the guitar parts in songs such as “Love and Happiness,” “You Ought to Be With Me,” and “I’m Still in Love With You.” His most famous song, however, is “Let’s Stay Together,” a song that has appeared in numerous feature films, has been covered by dozens of artists from the likes of Isaac Hayes and Tina Turner to Donny Osmond and Maroon 5, and has even been performed by Barack Obama during a 2012 campaign fundraiser in which Al Green performed.
Green’s backup band was especially prescient in songs such as “Tired of Being Alone,” which utilized a horn section that did not steal the show and yet added an element of funk music to the song. He is also known for keeping his recordings relatively pure, in the sense that he did not tweak them to cover up mistakes. For instance, near the start of “Love and Happiness,” there is a section in which the backing band is not quite in sync with one another. There is also a part during which co-songwriter Teenie Hodges can be heard keeping the beat in the background. Despite leaving this on the record, the song is still known as one of his greatest hits.
While Green’s songs have been covered by numerous artists such as Syl Johnson and Talking Heads, he has also covered others’ work as well. During live performances, he would occasionally perform songs such as “A Change Is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke. In addition, his cover of “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart” by the Bee Gees became popular on the radio when it was released. He has also performed with a number of other famous artists, including Patti LaBelle, Queen Latifah and Justin Timberlake.
Al Green has never been known for being particularly flashy. He does not wear clothing that is especially outrageous when taking to the stage, and he does not necessarily employ big dance numbers in his performances. Nonetheless, he is known for being a great live entertainer due solely to the animation with which he sings. He is a true crooner, and his 1995 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has cemented the mark he’s left on the music industry through his amazing vocals and showmanship.
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