Green, Al (born 1946), U.S. soul singer. At the height of his career during the early 1970s, Al Green sold more than 20 million records. Green topped both the pop and rhythm and blues charts with a string of soulful ballads inspired by gospel music and characterised by sweet falsetto and soaring vocals. After suffering personal tragedies, however, Green returned to his Baptist roots and devoted himself to singing primarily religious music.
Born April 13, 1946, into a large family of sharecroppers in Forrest City, Ark., Green began singing with his brothers at an early age. By the time he was 9, Al and his brothers had formed a gospel quartet, and they toured the South. Later, the family moved to Grand Rapids, Mich. Green sang with his brothers until his father expelled him the group after he discovered Al listening to the "profane" music of Jackie Wilson. At age 16, Green formed Al Green and the Creations with a few friends and began singing secular music. A few years later, Green cut his first single, 'Back Up Train' (1967). Although the song hit number five on the rhythm and blues charts, Green's follow-up efforts did not amount to much until he started working with bandleader, producer, and Memphis record company executive Willie Mitchell in Texas. As Green's producer and songwriting partner, Mitchell helped create the sound that catapulted Green to stardom in the 1970s. Green's debut album, Green Is Blues (1970), was followed by a series of successful albums containing hit singles such as 'I Can't Get Next to You' (1970), 'Tired of Being Alone' (1971), 'Let's Stay Together' (1971), 'Look What You Done for Me' (1972), 'I'm Still in Love with You' (1972), 'Call Me (Come Back Home)' (1973), and 'L-O-V-E (Love)' (1975).
In 1974 Green was hospitalised with second-degree burns sustained in a dispute with a former girlfriend. Green experienced a spiritual upheaval and retreated into his religion. He became an ordained pastor, built his own recording studio, began producing his own records, and resumed performing live. Green fell off a stage during a 1979 concert in Cincinnati. He interpreted this as another warning from God and retreated further from secular music.
During the 1980s Green primarily recorded inspirational music on gospel labels. In 1982 he briefly appeared with Patti LaBelle on Broadway in the gospel musical 'Your Arm's Too Short to Box with God'. The Talking Heads' version of Green's song 'Take Me to the River' became a big hit, as did Green's duet with Eurythmics vocalist Annie Lennox, 'Put a Little Love in Your Heart' (1988).
In 1990 Green earned a Grammy for 'As Long As We're Together'. In 1992 he signed a new record contract and returned to the soulful Memphis sounds of his early career. With several album releases, a Grammy award-winning duet with Lyle Lovett, 'Funny How Time Slips Away' (1994), and numerous concert and television appearances, Green remained a major entertainer even as he continued primarily as a preacher. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995.
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From Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia © 1998 The Learning Company, Inc.
Singer and minister Al Green, b. Forrest City, Ark. Apr. 13, 1946, set the standard for soul music singers in the early 1970s. Green performed in a family gospel music group as a child, then moved on to pop music in his teens. In 1969, he met Willie Mitchell, vice-president of Hi Records, and together Green and Mitchell created the mellower sound of 1970s Memphis soul. Green's first record produced the first in a long string of hit singles that featured his voice swooping and moaning gospel style over relatively quiet strings and horns. Among the hits, which Green often coauthored, were "Tired of Being Alone" (1971), "Let's Stay Together" (1972), "I'm Still in Love with You" (1972), "Call Me (Come Back Home)" (1973), and "L-O-V-E" (1975).
Despite his success, Green's personal life was tumultuous, and in late 1974 he was seriously burned by a former girlfriend, who then killed herself in front of him. He decided to enter the ministry and was ordained in 1976. He continued to record and perform pop music, and started making gospel records. In 1979, Green decided to devote himself more fully to his ministry, and has recorded only gospel music since 1981, for which he has won at least 5 Grammy Awards. He continues to split his time between his ministry and concert tours where he performs both his secular and gospel hits. Green was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995.
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