Welcome to this month’s edition of LINER NOTES, where we feature the talents and sample some of the musical jewels from some of our most acclaimed recording artists of recent history.  Our featured artist of the month was born Albert Greene in Forrest City, Arkansas in 1946.  He came to my attention with a song written by the BeeGees entitled, “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart.”  Actually, my first direct association with the song was when a seemingly shy kid sang it at my Cass Technical High School talent show.  Needless to say, his rendering of this freshly wrapped song at the time placed him firmly on the Cass Tech map.  After seeing the girl’s overly excited reaction to a really well interpreted cover of this song, I soon after heard the original by one Mr. Al Green.  He was new to us in Detroit but he was instantly accepted, swooned over by the girls and an instantaneous inductee into Super Stardom.  For a nice little stretch, Al Green could do no wrong.

posted by JCPLMA

From the age of 10, Al sang in the Spiritual Quartet group, the Greene Brothers.  His father would later kick him out of the Spiritual group for listening to Jackie Wilson records.  Al Green’s family moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan in the 50’s and while in High School, he formed a group called Al Green the Creations.  Two members of the group formed the independent record label, Hot Line Music, and in ’67, as Al Greene & the Soul Mates, he recorded his now classic song, “Back Up Train.”  As a side note, an awful lot of wonderful songs came out in ’67, the year of the Detroit Riots.  It was a bad year for Detroit with the National Guard called in and all but a very good year for R&B releases that are now some of our fondest classics ever recorded… “I’m In Love” (Wilson Pickett), “(Loneliness Made Me Realize) It’s You That I Need” (Temps), “I’m Gonna Miss You” (Artistics), “Tell It Like It Is” (Neville Brothers), “Everybody Needs Love” (Gladys Knight & the Pips), “Everything Is Alright” (Fantastic Four), “There Was A Time” (James Brown), “Standing In The Shadows Of Love” (4 Tops), “I Was Made To Love Her” (Stevie Wonder), “Soul Man” (Sam & Dave), “I Wanna Testify” (Parliament), “Hunter Gets Captured By The Game” (Marvelettes)… and on and on.  Al Green’s “Back Up Train” adds to that extensive list.  I didn’t know Al Greene (he still had the “e” in Green at this time) from Sal Spleene but I knew I dug that “Back Up Train” song.  The song didn’t sell very well but what did I know, I hadn’t bought my first record yet and I certainly didn’t determine how I felt about a song by how many records it sold.  I guess I knew GOOD when I heard it… even at this early age.  Another one of my early favorites was the ’71 classic, “Tired of Being Alone.”  Check out a Video Clip of Al Green gettin’ down on this Jam back in 1972.  Dig up on his facial expressions and I dare you to tell me this man didn’t truly feel what he sang.

posted by AlexMex54

In ’69, Al met Willie Mitchell and his life would change forever.  Willie hired him to sing vocals for his band at a gig he had booked in Texas.  I guess Al impressed him so much that Willie asked him to sign with his Hi Records label.  With Willie Mitchell as his producer, soloist Al Green (no longer with the “e”) hit pay dirt to the tune of 7 consecutive Gold Singles and the selling of over 20 million records in the glory days, the 70’s.  One of his Gold Records, selling over a million copies, was this slammer from the Call Me album, 1972’s “You Oughta Be With Me.”

posted by privatefender

Okay, the “Hot Grits” story goes like this… Al Green was having an affair with a married woman who wanted him to marry her.  Huh?  Yep!  A married woman wanted him to marry her.  Distraught that the relationship wasn’t progressing to her satisfaction, the young woman poured piping hot grits on Al one day when he was in the shower then took her own life with a fatal self-inflicted gunshot wound from a .38.  Sure, there were the speculations that her death was due to the knee jerk reaction to having Hot Grits tossed on him.  I even heard the rumor that Al threw the woman out the window after the burns to his body.  All I can say is apparently the cops were satisfied with the suicide note she left behind and Al Green’s version of the story.  That experience was the motivation for Al Green returning to his Gospel roots.  He not only sang the Gospel but he became an ordained minister and Pastor of the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Memphis in 1976.  Enjoy this clip from one year prior to Al becoming a preacher.  This vid is a live performance, with the whole band, on Soul Train.  What’s so unusual is that Don Cornelius rarely let anybody perform live on Soul Train; only a rare few great ones like Stevie Wonder, Luther Vandross and Al Green.  Check Al and the band out performing, “L-O-V-E Love.”  If you don’t watch ‘til the very end, you’ll miss out on a special treat.  No, I ain’t tellin’… you gotta watch and see for yourself.  Enjoy!

posted by sunnysidup82

Now, the Fisher Theatre in Detroit is a wonderful venue for seeing musical plays and concerts.  It somehow manages to be intimate even though it’s a pretty nice sized hall.  Well, I saw Al Green in the prime of his R&B career at the Fisher Theatre.  I apparently spared no expense because my seat was in the very last row of the balcony; the furthest row in the whole joint.  Believe it or not, it was a perfect seat because Al played that big.  His show was so personal, his singing so spot on and pitch perfect that I was totally engaged in the very last row of the theatre.  I guess I have to give some kudos to the Sound Company and Technician, too.  He passed out his flowers to the ladies on the main floor and sang his heart out.  No flash pods going off, no special effects on a big screen… just Al Green, without the silent “e,” singing up a storm and literally working the female audience members into an absolute frenzy.  In 2008 Al Green released an album entitled, Lay It Down.  Trust me when I say, the whole album was tight as two pimples on the head of a tsetse fly.  We found a live performance clip of Al doing “Lay It Down” on David Letterman’s show in 2008.  This clip is proof positive that Brother Green still got it!

posted by eubank12

As smokin’ hot as Pre-Grits Al Green was, you couldn’t have told me at the time that he would ever depart from the success he was receiving.  I was too young to ever imagine the dynamic recording artists of that day not going on, selling millions of records the duration of their careers.  All in all, Al has had a pretty doggone good run.  I don’t think there has ever been a time he couldn’t put on a concert and pack the house of his devoted fans.  His Icon status keeps doors opened for him in entertainment.  He certainly earned the right to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1995.  They probably need to induct him twice for the same honor since he was and is so, so, so, so, so good at what he does… write incredibly memorable songs and sing like nobody’s business!  Al Green… the very definition of the term, BAD!!  I’ll leave you with a more recent clip of Al showing off his guitar playing skills and the fact that he still got it when it comes to sangin’ a soulful song.  The title of this song is also a perfect description of this song… “Simply Beautiful.”  Peace!

Musically yours,

Reuben Yabuku


posted by Musicveagan01