Love and Happiness Is Al Green

state_al-green_sm.jpgThe magical, melodic and distinctive sound of these iconic artists’ remains unmatched by today’s current pop singers.








Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Luther Vandross, Sam Cooke, Wilson Pickett, and Otis Redding. Each of these gentlemen is a true soul singer, a legend in his own time. And decades after rising to the top of the soul, R&B and pop charts, their incredible music still lives on, still garnering praise from critics as well as delighting new and old fans like never before.

The magical, melodic and distinctive sound of these iconic artists’ remains unmatched by today’s current pop singers. There is, however, one very special old-school talent who not only rivals their genius, but in many ways surpasses it. I’m talking, of course, about the mind-blowing and magnificent Al Green.

Hands down, Al Green is in a class all by himself. He is the true master of storytelling and soulful yearning. Each and every note that he cries out is laced with raw honesty, love, pain, wanting, desire, devotion and desperation so intense that it drips from his soul. But be warned: Not everyone is capable of understanding and appreciating the tender, emotional, heartbreaking stories of love lost and found that Al is so eager to share.

If by chance, however, you think you’re among the enlightened few who are ready to listen, to truly comprehend the wisdom of all that Al has to say, then open your ears and your mind because you’ll be in for an amazing musical treat. Pick a song, any song, from such timeless Al Green classics as "I’m Still in Love With You" to "One of These Good Old Days," "Tired of Being Alone" to "For the Good Times." Relax and give Al a few minutes of your time, and I promise you’ll come away from the experience with an unbelievable new realization about the ups and downs of love, a powerful new insight that is more genuine and meaningful than you could ever hope to receive from any therapist or relationship expert. Yes, indeed, Al Green is just that good. And once you turn him on, you’ll find it nearly impossible to turn him off; I know I sure did.

My first "true" experience with Al occurred back in 1995, when I was a 19-year-old college freshman. One weekend I came home from school and holed up in my room listening to an "oldies but goodies" soul classics radio station. A certain song began to play, and upon hearing the first few chords of its incredible string, horn and rhythm section, I was immediately captivated. A few seconds later, a soft vocal joined in, and I immediately recognized the sound belonged to none other than Al Green.

But this record wasn’t Al’s massive 1972 hit single "Let’s Stay Together," his sole #1 pop song and the only recording that I had ever been familiar with (again, forgive me, I was only 19.) No, this record was completely new to my baby ears. I wondered if almost two decades after his heyday, had Al found his way back into the studio and cut this new song.

After the tune ended, I raced downstairs to check with my mother, humming and singing the bits and pieces of this awesome new music that had quickly registered in my brain. But when I posed the question to Mom, she just smiled and laughed before informing me that my "mystery song" wasn’t a mystery after all. It was "Love and Happiness," another one of Al’s hits from the early 1970s. The song, in fact, was on the album I’m Still in Love With You, which my mother, an Al Green aficionado herself, had purchased way back in the day. The album, she said, was sitting in her stack of old records in our living room. Needless to say, I could not believe my luck! I found the album, put it on the turntable, and then sat down and listened to Al over and over again. Not only was "Love and Happiness" genius, but so were the other eight tracks on the album. I absolutely loved it! Yes, indeed, Al Green spoke to me that day in 1995; thank goodness I was ready to listen.

Now in light of my Al Green conversion, there was no way I could go back to school without taking him along with me. So later that night, I found a blank cassette tape and spent the rest of the evening making a dub of the album. Back in my dorm room, I listened to the tape nonstop, sometimes even cranking up the volume and opening my door so the music could flow into the hallway. I loved Al so much; I wanted to share him with others, if they were ready to listen.

Initially, my roommate was not. She found it annoying that, literally, overnight I had suddenly gotten into music that was almost 25 years old. But after a few days of living with Al, my roommate also saw the light and gave up trying to resist his magic. Not only did she become a huge Al Green fan, but so did several other students who heard his call. The next thing I knew, kids whom I didn’t even know were knocking at my door, asking to borrow my Al tape. One girl got so tired of the long wait that she went out and bought her own I’m Still in Love With You cassette. Yes, indeed, Al Green is just that good.

Although today I no longer keep in touch with my former dorm mates, I’m sure they’re still listening to Al. And I’m also willing to bet that over the years, they’ve shared him with other people, too. How could they not? Once you’ve been exposed to greatness like his, you can’t resist sharing it with anyone who’s willing to listen.

I’ve thought long and hard about it, but, honestly, after a decade of loving Al, I still can’t pick only one song that stands out as my favorite. In addition to the classic recordings already mentioned, his greatest hits collection includes such gems as "Call Me," "You Ought to Be with Me," "Here I Am (Come and Take Me)," "Let’s Get Married," and "Belle." If it’s an Al Green song, you can be sure I’ll love it.

In 2004, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked Al Green #65 on its list of 100 Greatest Artists of all time. Not only is he a gifted songwriter, penning lyrics so earnest they feel as if they must have poured from his own wounded heart, but he also possesses a powerful and expressive soulful voice, so passionate and sincere that it stays with you long after the music ends. Al Green’s talent is exceptional, impeccable, extraordinary, and unique. Like no other artist, he has important stories to tell about love and life. The question is, are you ready to listen? | Retannical D. Russell

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