I may as well come out and say it:
I Love Al Green.
From an early age, there was no disguising it. The first time I ever realized that watching television could be a life-changing experience, I was watching Al Green on Soul Train. You can talk all you want about James Brown. I won’t argue that James Brown is the “Godfather of Soul”. Never really cared much for his music. Ok, that’s not completely true. His music was fine. The fact that whether he was singing or speaking, he did so in some broken form of English punctuated with what sounded like a reaction to bad chowder made his music unpalatable for me. You knew he was saying something, you just couldn’t make out the words.
Al Green was different when he spoke. You knew the words he was saying, you just had no idea what he was talking about. Kind of like Sly Stone, only you knew Al was saying something really deep and you just didn’t get it, where Sly was saying something even he didn’t understand.
That performance on Soul Train captivated me. Al was singing “Let’s Stay Together”. Man, what a song! I was eight years old and my relationship with the opposite sex at that point consisted of cutting a 45 rpm record of “Sugar, Sugar” by the Archies from the back of a cereal box and giving it to a girl on the schoolbus. That didn’t matter because when Al soared effortlessly through the melody of the song I suddenly understood the emotions he was feeling.
Just listening to Al Green on the radio was cheating one’s self of the full experience. Al was and is a showman. He sings with his whole body. Joe Cocker is a walking seizure. Al is crystal blue water flowing over a cascading waterfall. He can hit notes that would undo gastric bypass surgery in most normal humans.
I walked away from the television that day determined to be Al Green when I grew up. Al broke his arm and wore a velvet sling. I hounded my mother until she made me a velvet sling. His was red. Mine was green. His arm was broken in two places. Mine didn’t have a scratch on it. Minor details. I was emulating my hero.
My family was pretty open-minded in the early seventies. Still, telling my father that I wanted to be Al Green instead of a doctor or a quarterback was quite a shock to his system. Not that he was worried about the eventuality of it, mind you. Al Green, as many know, is of African American descent. I’m more Caucasian than Edgar Winter. I couldn’t tan in a Fry Daddy. Al was the epitome of fluid movement. I was so clumsy that by the time I was eight years I had had more stitches than a major league baseball. None of these miniscule differences made any difference to me.
I haven’t thought about my days as a wannabe soul singer in years. Al and I have grown a lot since those days. I have a Savior, a wife, kids, mortgages, auto payments, school tuition, gray hairs, and inserts in my shoes. Al went and got himself saved too not long after a rumored incident with hot grits and an angry wife. Don’t know if the story is really true, but I have to say getting a pan of hot buttered grits thrown onto your person would likely make any man renew his conversation with his Creator.
What brought all of this to mind was a quote I read from the now Reverend Al Green the other day. He was talking about how his relationship with Christ now affects his life.
“I go to my studio, and I record what I hear in my spirit, in my soul. And after that, I go on the road and try to sing what I heard. And then I come back to the church and try to preach what I heard.”
Al and I still sing “Let’s Stay Together”. Me in my Taurus and him on some stage in Middle America. I never made it to Motown, but I am blessed to serve Christ in my town. Al never became the Godfather of Soul, but he knows God the Father has his soul. We are brothers in Christ. As we lay our heads down tonight, we can both look heavenward and sing, “I’m Still In Love With You”.
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