IN THE SPOTLIGHT WITH AL GREEN
by la jackson 1/30/2011 / Entertainment
For the few who may never have heard of Al Green, this could be your lucky day. We‚ve got some great inside information to share with you about Al and a few one-of-a-kind events I took part in, to support his new Word Records release. Going Green with Reverend Al, it‚s public record that he has logged-in at #65 on Rolling Stone‚s ‚100 Greatest Artists of All Time.‚ Al Green is a certified Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, with over 20 million records sold‚ and counting. From the early days of the 50s in Forrest City, Arkansas singing with his family‚s Green Brothers Gospel quartet, a young Al Green came a long way over the course of his career. Doing live shows and moving north to places like Michigan only helped to spread the word on Al Green.
GREEN FACTS: Al Green got fired by his father, for listening to the secular music of singers like James Brown, Sam Cooke, Wilson Pickett and Jackie Wilson. Years later, Al reflected a wish to have recorded with the often introspective visionary, Marvin Gaye.
After leaving the Green Brothers, his Al Green & the Creations contained members who started the Hot Line Music Journal, the group‚s record company. Scoring moderate hits, the group name was changed to the Soul Mates, but failed to generate much attention in later years. That didn‚t stop Al‚"in 1969 he went on to link up with music man Willie Mitchell, and never looked back. By the 70s, Al Green was making his hit-bound ascension to the charts, on a voyage that streaked across the skies and reflected an after-burn that included seven back-to-back Gold singles. Overcoming obstacles in his personal life as a soul survivor, Al found himself on a new mission: serving the Lord in a new capacity.
Becoming an ordained pastor, Al Green spread The Word at Memphis‚ Full Gospel Tabernacle, right down the street from Elvis Presley‚s Graceland. The remainder of the 70s saw him doing more performances, in the Gospel vernacular. When the 80s drew around, Al teamed up with Patti Labelle in theatrical musicals, and a documentary was made about him. Continuing his Gospel music trek through the remainder of the decade, The Lord guided the ship into some bright lights: Al accumulated eight Grammies for best ‚Soul Gospel Performance,‚ and even reunited with his old hit-making production mate, Willie Mitchell. By the late 80s, Al teamed up with the Eurythmics‚ Annie Lennox to do a song for the Scrooged movie soundtrack. Al also partnered with hit producer Arthur Baker.
Moving over to Word/Epic in the early 90s, Al Green released a compilation called One In a Million. To celebrate the release, we threw an exclusive listening party at the Peachtree Plaza hotel in Atlanta, and invited everyone from the southern Gospel music world: retail, radio and other media personnel came out in full force. That night, I discovered what a healthy sense of humor Al had‚"he told stories and cracked jokes the entire evening! In my eyes, it didn‚t matter what kind of music Al was making; people drove great distances to see him!
The One In a Million album was a collection of fine songs from Al Green‚s Gospel albums of the 80s, and it just happened to hit the streets around the same time I was promoting Public Enemy‚s 1990‚s Fear of a Black Planet or 1991‚s Apocalypse 91... The Enemy Strikes Black. Even though the images are slowly turning gray in the old RAM memory, I can somewhat remember this, because that‚s when a major change took place for me. I had gotten myself a ‚jheri curl‚ back in 1980, and by 1990 it was time to get a new look. I decided it was curl-cut time, so naturally I called this my going back to Black period. Strangely enough; after I chopped mine off, the curl remained popular for a few people‚
GOING FOR GREEN - AT THE MALL WEST END
To support Al Green‚s new album, we set up an in-store appearance at Peppermint‚s West End location. I always got a chance to shine at artist in-stores, because this was when I secured the best location in the store to plaster merchandising materials like posters up on a particular release‚"the front window was often that place, followed by the area just behind it, as well as near the cash register. As protocol, I checked with our in-house sales reps to ensure that enough Al Green music products would be on hand to sell. Just as important as everything else, ads promoting the event were placed on the radio and in local papers.
In-store appearances are designed to accomplish several things: one, they put the artist directly in contact with fans, in an off-stage setting. Secondly, they open the doors for sales of the artists‚ music, which fans buy and get their idol to autograph. As a by-product, other merchandise in the store can be purchased, and we can‚t discount the amount of traffic that‚s generated around the vicinity of the store! These days, it‚s easy for events to suddenly become overwhelmed, thanks to newer tools of technology like texting and tweeting. This makes me wonder what the already full-to-capacity crowd at Greenbriar Mall would have looked like after we did an Xscape in-store at Peppermint‚s back in the early 90s‚"I made a ‚reality‚ video of us running the girls from the store, through a back hallway and stuffing them into the limo‚"‚more news at 11‚‚
In all honesty, the Al Green in-store event at Peppermint‚s West End location was every bit as lively as any other in-store I was involved in, and the same sign was given at the end of the day when the ‚final tally‚ was being calculated: we usually sold out of everything! It was a great experience to watch the action unfold with my own eyes, from the setting up of merchandise in the store, to seeing the store fill up with adoring fans, to hearing the sound of the cash register go ‚chi-ching,‚ every time people bought an album, cassette or CD of the artist they fought the crowd ‚to get next to.‚ Just thinking about it makes me want to go dig up an old picture taken with myself and Al Green, standing behind the counter selling his music, while he signed autographs for an organized mob of music lovers. I‚d be willing to say the Al Green in-store helped to inject a little ‚Love and Happiness‚ into the ‚hood, if only for one day.
Some of my most memorable in-store events include R&B‚s Tony ‚She‚s Fly‚ Terry, and Xscape at Peppermint‚s Greenbriar Mall location, and Rock legend Ozzy Osbourne at Record Bar‚s Town Center Mall location in Marietta (no, I didn‚t see any bats dieing or blood flying that day). Plus, there was Cypress Hill at Sound Warehouse in Stone Mountain (no flying cannibas), and Rap/Hip-Hop fashion princes Kris Kross at Turtle‚s Records on Memorial Drive/I-285. Even though that one was packed, I think I outdid myself at another Kris Kross event: it took place in a club called Diamonds & Pearls, which had just moved to Cheshire Bridge Road from its original Buckhead location. I weaved together what turned out to be a standing room only Black Music Council meeting for my Atlanta retailers, and the krossed out duo ‚jumped‚ onstage to deliver a bouncy performance. ‚It was a dirty job, but someone had to do it‚‚
Getting back to the evolution of Al Green, I imagine that my memorable experiences at the Peppermints Records in-store event mentioned above was merely one tiny dot on this icon‚s national navigation course. By the 90s, Al returned to his Soul/R&B roots and expanded boundaries by working once again with Arthur Baker; and collaborating with a fine group called the Fine Young Cannibals, thus producing more Green-flavored hits. Al also got into doing music for TV shows and working with artists in a variety of genres, like Country‚s Lyle Lovett‚"and more Grammies followed. Al‚s 1992 Love Is Reality came next; this album was produced by Tim Miner, who at one time was a Motown recording artist. Tim gave Al fresh productions loaded with bright touches and arrangements, while sprinkled with hints of other styles of the time, like New Jack Swing.
A secular album was released in 1995, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame made Green a made man. Continuing to do well with live shows, Pastor Al rode the 90s right into the new millennium, publishing a book, Take Me to the River, which sheds light on his landmark career. From Grammy Lifetime Achievement Awards to songs on movie soundtracks, to an album with music pal Willie Mitchell, Al Green‚s momentum was still in the pinging the perigee mode, and was on a nonstop mission to hit the apogee.
Coordinates along Al‚s voyage through ‚New Millenni Way‚ included pit-stops where he did projects with co-lab-pilots Queen Latifah, Questlove of the Roots, John Legend, Anthony Hamilton and more. By 2008, Green‚s Lay It Down album became his most successful release in over 30 years, after cracking the Top Ten on Billboard‚s hit album chart. Green closed out the decade by performing, making special appearances and doing assorted music projects including Oh Happy Day: An All-Star Music Celebration; and of course, receiving more great honors. All I can say is it‚s nice to have crossed paths with this musical magnet that has attracted the flow of energy from just about every spectrum on the map of musical magic.