I quit the latest incarnation of my radio show Cool Tunes nearly a year ago (already!), and as the pattern always goes, I am starting to miss radio again after being really sick of it, and, as a result, thinking about it again.
About the most “normal” radio phase I have had was as a DJ on the Cleveland commercial modern rock station “The End” in the mid-’90s, and the most fun I had there was covering the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame grand opening and concert in 1995. I got to interview all kinds of people running around at the Rock Hall, but my favorite by far was Al Green – what a kind, humble, genuinely spiritual man, who made me realize you don’t have to be a flake or an egomaniac to be a musical genius.
Born the youngest of ten children to deeply religious Arkansas sharecroppers, Green was the last of the great southern soul singers, creating a spare, sexy, spiritual sound out of simple yet elegant production (by Willie Mitchell) and a classic Memphis soul band in the Stax/Volt tradition almost ten years after the sound had peaked.
They say “Al Green is love,” and His Greatest Hits makes gloriously clear the relationship for Green between romantic love and love of God, that others, including Prince, have pursued with much less success. Recorded between ’71 and ’75, Green had an amazing run of hits written alone or with Mitchell including “Let’s Stay Together,” “Tired of Being Alone,” “I’m Still In Love With You,” “Here I Am (Come and Take Me),” “Call Me,” and a stunning version of the Bee Gees’ “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart.”
Green returned to his first love, gospel, in the late-’70s. He returned to the pop world in ’88 with “Put a Little Love In Your Heart,” a duet with Annie Lennox, and teamed with Lyle Lovett on a remake of Willie Nelson’s “Funny How Time Slips Away” for the Rhythm, Country, and Blues collection in ’94.