To a greater extent than even his predecessors Sam Cooke and Otis Redding, Al Green (née Albert Greene) embodies soul music’s mix of sacred and secular. He was born to a sharecropping, gospel singing family near Forrest City, Alabama who moved during the Great Migration) of the 1950’s to Grand Rapids, Michigan. He was one of the Seventies' most popular vocalists, selling over 20 million albums and is known today as “the Last of the Great Soul Singers” celebrating age 69 on April 13, 2015.
A silky smooth and lolling falsetto characterizes Green’s unique voice. He received assistance from his contemporary Willie Mitchell to manifest this “new” sound: it contrasted the existing Motown sound which included faster tempos. Green’s gospel-rooted ecstatic cries and moans thus separated him from the herd. Green’s improvisational. His signature songs “Tired of Being Alone” and “Love and Happiness” are rubrics for soulful love narratives. In addition to Willie Mitchell, Green was associated with Mahalia Jackson and the Quiet Elegance act managed by The Temptations.
Green is one of the few singers who began in the church, expanded into popular soul music by severing ties with the church, and then later turned again to singing worship music only in church. In the late-1970’s, he returned to the Baptist church as a preacher. in response to a tragic accident involving his married girlfriend. On the night of October 10, 1974, Mary Woodson White accosted unsuspecting Al Green with boiling grits, severely burning him, before turning Green’s .38 revolver on herself, killing her.
The eight time Grammy winner was lauded in Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Artists, coming in at number 66. He also received the 2009 BET Lifetime Achievement Award. His last studio album, Lay It Down), was released in 2008 and in addition to the production credentials including Uestlove and James Poyser, Green also earned the 2009 Grammy for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group alongside John Legend.