Barry Brecheisen/WireImageHappy birthday to the Reverend Al Green, who turns 70 years old today. The Memphis soul legend is best known for the run of memorable singles he released during the early-to-mid 1970s, including the 1971 chart-topper “Let’s Stay Together,” as well as the 1972 top-five hits “I’m Still in Love with You” and “Look What You Done for Me.”
Green was born in Forrest City, Arkansas, and began singing in a gospel quartet while he was still a child. After moving with his family to Grand Rapids, Michigan, in the late 1950s, Green began singing in local soul groups. He scored an R&B hit in 1968 with his band The Soul Mates, and then was signed as a solo artist the following year to Memphis’ famous Hi Records by the label’s vice president, producer Willie Mitchell.
Mitchell produced all of Green’s albums from 1969 to 1976, and also co-wrote many of Al’s biggest hits. Other classic tunes recorded by Green during this period include “Here I Am (Come and Take Me),” “Call Me (Come Back Home)” and “Take Me to the River,” which The Talking Heads had a top-40 hit with in 1978.
In late 1974, Green was assaulted by a girlfriend, who then committed suicide. This incident led to his decision to become an ordained minister, and for many years he gave up performing pop music, instead recording a series of gospel albums. Al eventually returned to singing pop music, and in 1988 his duet with Eurythmics‘ Annie Lennox on the Jackie DeShannon song “Put a Little Love in Your Heart” became a top-10 hit.
Green has received many major accolades for his influential career. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995, was welcomed into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2004 and was saluted at the 2009 Kennedy Center Honors.
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