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More than four decades as a performer. Multi-millions in record sales. Eleven Grammy Awards and he’s 66 years old. Added together those numbers, and then some, equal the sum total of R&B/soul singing legend Al Green.
The number 36 is another number that can be added to this music icon’s equation. For over three decades, now Bishop Al Green has been the pastor of Full Gospel Tabernacle Church in Memphis, Tenn. Being a pastor has only enhanced his popularity. Just weeks ago, he performed before a sold-out crowd in the Washington, D.C. area.
Whenever he performs in Las Vegas, tickets priced in the triple digit prices are usually sold out in matter of minutes.
Green’s classic hits include “Love and Happiness,’’ “Tired of Being Alone,’’ and ‘For the Good Times.’’ His current CD is “Lay it Down.’’ It’s a collaboration between the soul legend and several of today’s top young performers from the worlds of contemporary R&B and hip music.
Performers such as John Legend, Anthony Hamilton and Corinne Bailey Rae and others are featured.
Balancing pastor and performer
In a recent interview, Green chats about charisma, music, movies, presidents and the church
Question: You’ve been a pastor for over three decades. How do you balance Rev. Al Green, the pastor, with Al Green the stage performer?
Green: I’m just one person. I can’t be no, two or three different people. That’s why I had so many people trying to divide me up, so I had to go talk to the Master about it. He said, ‘Al, I gave you the songs cause they’re beautiful songs.’ I said, ‘Well, yeah, that’s true.’ So He then said, ‘If people got a problem with what you sing such as songs like ‘Love and Happiness’ and ‘For the Good Times,’ then how did they get here?’
Question: That’s a valid point. Earlier this year, President Obama sang a few lines of your classic hit song “Let’s Stay Together.’’ On a scale of 1-5, how would you rate the president’s singing? (The YouTube video of President Obama singing a portion of your song has now received over 1.2 million views and digital sales for your version of the song jumped 490 percent.)
Green: Well, hell, he sounded a whole lot better than me! (He laughs) My voice is a little raspy today. When it first happened with President Obama singing a piece of my song, I said, ‘Wow, I didn’t even know he knew our little song was in the world, and the next thing is I didn’t know the president could even sing!
Question: To further speak of presidents, I read a recent article that stated you have the same kind of charisma that President Clinton has. What do you think of that comparison?
Green: I don’t know about that. Mr. Clinton has the kind of charisma that had the stock market go up, he had imports and exports increasing, people were making more in their incomes, more people had jobs. He was an excellent president. He had this charisma that got the country moving forward so I don’t know how I can fit into the equation of having that kind of charisma. I guess it does take some type of special charisma to do what we do cause I see a lot of people who go out there and try to do it but they couldn’t handle the high notes and they just gave up and tried something else.
Question: There seems to be a lot of ministers who are becoming filmmakers. Do you have any plans on going into the film business?
Green: No. No. Not me. I’m a minister and because I’m a minister I don’t want to be trying to direct films or make them. That’s not my expertise. I wished I could make the money off of some of these blockbuster films but no, I don’t have any interest in making movies.
Question: If a movie is made about your life story, which actor would you like to see star as Al Green?
Green: “Anybody that would be playing the role of me would definitely be doing just that—playing a role! (He laughs) I’m an eccentric guy. You never know what I might say or do in the next five seconds. So the actor would definitely have to be ‘playing.’ Any actor who tries to play as Al Green would be a fool and a fake.
Question: Denzel Washington would probably be a good candidate for the role?
Green: Yeah. He would be good in the role after the year 1971…I think Jamie Foxx did a great job in the Ray Charles role. He played Ray better than the real Ray Charles! But Jamie doesn’t have the facial structure and facial feel to play me.
This story is special to the NNPA from the Tennessee Tribune.