If Otis Redding dominated 60s soul, Al Green bestrode the 70’s thanks to a voice that glided and levitated, spiralling into a delicate falsetto just as you expected it to reach full force.
Born in Forrest City, Arkansas (just across the Mississippi River from Memphis) in 1946, Green got into gospel music at an early age, and from the age of 16 to 19 he worked in R&B groups.
In 1969, producer Willy Mitchell signed the 23-year old Green to Memphis-based Hi Records, and the pair soon began collaborating on records.
They triumphed with Green’s 1972 album, Let’s Stay Together – the title track of which sat at the top of the US singles chart for nine weeks.
On the same album, Al took a pleasant if undistinguished Bee Gees tune, How Can You Mend A Broken Heart?, and turned it into a devastating lament, epic in its scope.
Green indulged heavily in women and drugs, and on 25 October 1974, at the height of his fame, he was badly burnt during a fight with ex-lover Mary Woodson, who threw boiling grits on him before shooting herself in his Memphis home. The tragedy led him to become ordained as a pastor, devote more of his time to preaching, and adopt a sacred-music-only repertoire.
By 1980 he had abandoned soul music for the ministry, presiding over his own Memphis Church of the Full Gospel Tabernacle.