Today is the birthday of the voice behind one of the greatest love songs of all time, the Reverend Al Green
Can I get a hallelujah up in here?
I did not grow up listening to his music, unfortunately, apparently Marvin Gaye was more my family’s speed. However, I did discover him in my teens and I was hooked. There’s a certain quality to his voice, a nimble timbre, that sends chills down my spine when I hear him hit certain notes.
I got to know the great Rev by way of the Talking Heads covering one of his classics, Take Me to the River.
For a brief while, I was obsessed with the song, and like most things I obsess over, I tumbled into a rabbit hole. I found out it was-sacrilege! Mon Dieu!-a cover song. This awesome tune that had been pumping up club kids at the Maxim…was an oldie? I had to know more about the original. I went to my record store sources who pointed me in the direction of some soul music, and I was instantly converted.
I purchased Al Green’s Greatest Hits, which ironically does not include his gateway song. I wore out my little opaque cassette in my Walkman on the bus ride to and from school. While my classmates were waking up to Depeche Mode and Tears for Fears, I was being indoctrinated in a hybrid of soul. From the melancholy of How Do You Heal a Broken Heart
to the swoon worthy Love and Happiness
I was full on in the congregation.
The devotion has continued over the next thirty years, with me being a musical missionary. I’ve introduced friends with an evangelistic zeal. What sealed the deal for a lot of them was the amazing duet he did with Annie Lennox off the Scrooged soundtrack.
I think every young couple should be gifted a copy of his Greatest Hits as they embark on a new relationship. It might just save some of them when the polish is off the chalice and it’s become rote ritual. It should be mandatory to put on Let’s Stay Together
Oh let’s, let’s stay together
Lovin’ you whether, whether
Times are good or bad, happy or sad, alright, oh yeah
Whether times are good or bad, happy or sad
That’s what love is all about.
Can I get an Amen?