For a year in the early 1970s I lived in a trailer in a small Bible Belt town in the bluegrass country of rural Kentucky. I attended the county high school and most of my classmates were either white trailer-living trash (like myself) or poor black kids. If I recollect right, our county was the poorest performer in education in the State.
My musical tastes in those days centered around Cat Stevens, Bread, America and the Allman Brothers Band. I had an English friend who was into Gary Glitter and David Bowie and the Stones but all that seemed a bit too weird for me. Another close friend had every Pink Floyd album and something called Tubular Bells. He was so avant garde! But I did get a taste for War from him so that was good.
In French class I sat in front of a black kid named Robert. He and I chatted in the hall sometimes and he loved a jean jacket I had with a big red question mark sewn on the back. He kept pestering me to give it to him. I resisted but in the end gave in and he wore it every day for a few weeks and then gave it back to me. One day he asked it I knew Al. I said, ‘Who?”
‘Al,’ he said, ‘Al Green, man, Al Green.’
I confessed I didn’t know such a guy and Robert giggled at me as if had said the earth was flat. ‘He’s the best singer in the world, man. Check him out, he be on TV you know.’
Some time later I was watching a show hosted by the band Chicago. The special guest was a black soul singer named Al Green. He sang Let’s Stay Together and Judy. I was mesmerized and have been ever since. I’ve seen him live a couple of times and have plenty of his records. He never ceases to amaze. And tonight he is 66 years old! Happy Birthday Al baby!
I’ve put together a selection of some prime cuts from this genius of soul in honor of the day. But before that here are some things Al told Esquire magazine he has learned throughout his life.
A prostitute is a poor thing to put confidence in.
There was ten of us, five boys and five girls, and Mom and Dad made twelve people in one house, a little two-bedroom. Daddy couldn't buy everybody shoes at one time, so somebody's getting hand-me-downs. That's me.
I didn't have a mother; I had a mama. I measure other women by the stature of my mama.
Daddy used to go to the honky-tonk bars and leave me in the truck. After a while, he'd come out staggering and slurring, "Now, don't you tell your mama what I did, boy." He was so drunk, I wouldn't have to say anything.
Everything is handed to society now. Before, you had to dig for it. I like that -- digging for it.
What if she takes your heart and wraps it around her little finger and has you going to the store, shopping, washing clothes, and then she breaks your heart? That's the chance you've got to take on love.
I was at a neighbor's house when I was about thirteen. People brought them something wrapped tight in paper, something to do with some spoon. Everybody was laughing; they'd go in sad and come out happy. So one of the guys said, "Hey, let li'l Green have some. He's a nice kid." So he got this syringe ready, and I said, "I don't know, I'm scared of needles. I can't do that," and I ran out of the house. They all fell out laughing.
I was a fantastic womanizer. I mean, I was incredible. I just didn't know what I was doing. I had women all over the place, they were all over me, and my dad said, "Well, why don't you just choose one?"
I don't know what bad music is if it's done right, but then again, I don't know what good music is if it's done wrong.
A man's gift makes room for him.
Blacks have based their feelings on "What happened to me, being a slave on the plantation, da da da," and that's fine and dandy. But I could go to my friend Henry, who's Jewish, and say, "What happened to you?" And he'd say, "My grandparents died in the Holocaust." So that stuff happened to everybody.
Look at you. The chains you had on. Now they're gold.
You can't sleep all day and get up at 4:00 in the evening and pretend you're in a hurry.
The trick to achieving a good falsetto? I know no way to accomplish that. I don't even know how I sing like I sing.
Church is so important for black people because it's the only place we had to go when we couldn't go no place else. Couldn't go to the bar -- wasn't allowed. Couldn't go to the hotel because we weren't able to rent a room. Couldn't go to the restaurant because we weren't allowed to be seated. So we went to church.
If there wasn't a hell, nobody could tell me to go there.
Seeing that I ain't never died, I can't be afraid of something I never did.
I woke up about 4:30 in the morning. Something was happening. I was knocking on doors of the hotel, telling complete strangers I'd been born again. Some lady slammed the door in my face. I went to the next door and said, "I been born again!" They called security.
I think God chose to speak to me because I'm softhearted and he knew that I would be dumb enough to actually try.
My daddy said, "When the sun comes up, boy, you get up. When the sun go down, dammit, you go down."
I have found people on both sides of the aisle, white and black, that'll give you the shirt off their back. And I've also found people that won't give you a piece of bread if you're starving to death.
Some people believe that fairness comes with obeying the rules. I'm one of those people.
You'll find that there's somebody along the way who will give you a ride wherever you want to go.
I saw a tree standing that wouldn't sway with the wind. It stayed still. But one day a hurricane came and ripped it.
The woman had water or something in this pot. I said, "Mary, you gonna heat water or something?" She said, "I would never hurt you. I love you." I said, "Hurt me!! I just wrote a song for you!" That's the furthest thing from my mind. I go back downstairs, I disrobe, I'm washing my face, and I feel this excruciating pain, and water or something flies all over the place. I get in the shower, cold water, and I'm screaming, and the next thing I hear is a shot fired and someone hit the floor. I loved her. I thought we could be together forever. She didn't mean it. I didn't know she had a problem.
Suicide is not an answer, it's destruction.
If I fast for forty days, I can go more places sitting right here on this couch than you could go in a jet plane.
The greatest thing that ever happened to me, to Al Green, the little boy from Arkansas, was that amidst all the doubts and speculation, I found peace.
02 Call Me (Come Back Home)
03 Stand Up
04 Lay It Down (Feat. Anthony Hamilton)
05 Tired Of Being Alone
06 I Can't Stop
07 Let's Stay Together
09 Waiting On You
10 I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry
11 All 'N All
12 I Feel Good
13 How Can You Mend A Broken Heart
15 Love and Happiness
16 I've Been Thinking About You
17 For The Good Times
18 People Get Ready
19 His Name Is Jesus
20 The Old Rugged Cross
21 It Ain't No Fun To Me
22 Gotta Find A New World
23 Keep On Pushing Love
24 Jesus is Waiting
25 Real Love