Today marks the Rev. Al Green’s 66th birthday, a milestone day in the life of a man who has had a long and storied career in music and the ministry. Green became a singing sensation during the late ‘60s and early ‘70s for hits such as “I’m Still in Love with You” and “Let’s Stay Together,” which both went gold. Three decades later he is back in the center of the public eye after President Obama sang the first few bars of the latter tune, bringing down the house at a fundraiser — and also driving a 490 percent increase in sales of “Let’s Stay Together,” effectively introducing the legend to a new generation.
Green’s vocal style might have been mimicked by Obama, but a writer for the New Times Broward-Palm Beach notes:
Still, Al Green remains one of a kind, a soul singer in the classic sense and a man who recalls classic performers like Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson, Marvin Gaye, Wilson Pickett, James Brown, and David Ruffin.
Born April 13, 1946, he hit his heyday during the ‘70s, when his singles “I’m Still in Love with You,” “Love and Happiness,” “Take Me to the River,” and, of course, “Let’s Stay Together” became staples on both the pop and R&B charts. He withdrew from those realms by choice when, in the ‘70s and ‘80s, he turned to the church and became an ordained minister. Still, he had already achieved immortality. Rolling Stone named him number 66 in its list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time, and in 1995, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The fact that he’s sold more than 20 million records attests to his enduring influence and popularity.
Although Green made several attempts at stardom in the late ‘60s, both as a solo artist and through various ensembles that bore his name, it wasn’t until he met musician Willie Mitchell, a member of Memphis’ Hi Records’ in-house studio band, that his destiny was sealed. A spate of best-selling albums — Green Is Blues, Al Green Gets Next to You, Let’s Stay Together, I’m Still In Love With You, Call Me, and Al Green Explores Your Mind — became huge successes, each yielding singles that took him to the top of the charts.
And of course, cementing Green in our hearts as one of the greatest singers of all time. Let’s wish a very happy birthday to this African-American great.
Follow Alexis Garrett Stodghill on Twitter at @lexisb