Kennedy Center to honor Memphis soul legend Rev. Al Green

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- It's a warm welcome from music royalty for the Reverend Al Green.

"Alex, How are you doing? How are you(laughter & hug) Hey, are you doing good? I'm doing well. It's good to see you. it's been too long," Rev. Al Green said.

Considered by many as the defining voice of Soul music, the Rev. Green invited me to come to his Memphis recording studio and offices to talk about his musical journey.

"This is 'Let's Stay Together' turned platinum from Amsterdam, Holland and Europe," he said.

What a journey it's been for Rev. Green and his fans.

"I've got people say, 'I've got kids because of you. Because of you,'" he said, laughing.

His journey in life began when he was born to sharecroppers in Arkansas and years later moved to Memphis.

"I'm from Arkansas, Forrest City, Arkansas. That's 52 miles out of 37 years. I've only managed to get 52 miles from Forrest City, Arkansas, so you know I must be a home boy, yeah man," he said.

The music legend has sold more than 20 million albums, won 11 Grammys, and toured around the globe performing his hits such as "Let's Stay Together," "Love and Happiness," and "Tired of Being Alone," just to name a few.

Throughout it all, Memphis is where he calls home.

"It is home. I'm right at home. I know the people and when I get ready to get my hair cut on Chelsea and the guys are out on the street and they say, 'When Rev. Al gets ready to get his hair cut, he comes back to the hood man,'" he said.

Rev. Green gets serious when he reflects on the early days of his music and about famed record producer, Willie Mitchell, the man Green credits for launching his career into orbit.

"Because he discovered Al Green. Al Green hadn't even discovered Al Green yet. When I came down here in 1970 we cut songs for a whole year trying to find songs with my vocal range," he said.

He remembers when he and Mitchell were in the studio and they finally found the real soulful sound of Al Green's voice.

"He cut the tape off and said I got it now and he reruns the tape. You, two 'I...I'm so in love with you. Whatever you want to do.' Like that. HeHaw!" he said.

Many have said Al Green's iconic voice stirs our souls in a style that is all his own and apparently his voiced stirred the soul of the president of the United States.

Check out Rev. Green's reaction when I showed him the video of President Barack Obama serenading him with one of his own songs:

Obama: "and to know that Rev. Al Green was here."
Green: "Oh, the president. Oh my, God."
President, singing: "I... I'm so in love with you."
Green: "He's in the same key and everything man, please. That is awesome. When you get the president to know your song, that's pretty special, ain't it?"

What Rev. Green says is also special for him is his faith in God. He's the pastor and founder of Full Gospel Tabernacle Church on Hale Road in the Whitehaven community. Every Sunday, the services attract church members and visitors from around the world.

"Oh God, when you see the name it says it all right there. He's meant everything to little Al Green," he said.

Regarding upcoming projects, Al Green said he will soon be back in his recording studio recording a brand new album with a classic Memphis sound with mostly Memphis musicians."

"I'm working on a project now and I'm doing a Christian music album, because that's what we're devoted to and that's what we are in, but I want to do it so everybody can enjoy it," he said.

At 68, Rev. Green is still in demand signing autographs and album covers and getting phone calls from fans such as talk show host David Letterman to perform on the last season of his show before he retires.

"I'm going to do his show. I'm going to do 'Tired of Being Alone.' 'I'm so tired of being alone,' and we're going to do that for Letterman and it's going to be nice," he said.

Nice, and not bad for a music legend, a soul survivor from humble beginnings, who has the president as a fan, and one who is among five entertainers - including Tom Hanks, Lily Tomlin, Patricia McBride and Sting - who are receiving this years Kennedy Center Honors awards for their influence on American culture through the arts.

"If you get an honor with a class of people like that you want to say that man what you've done is fantastic, I say, praise the Lord!" he said.

The Kennedy Center Honors ceremony will be December 7 in Washington, D.C., and will feature several performers saluting the honorees. The program will be broadcast December 30 on CBS and WREG-TV, News Channel 3.


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