Over four decades of as a performer; multi-millions in record sales; 11 Grammy Awards; and he’s 66 years old. Added all 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 more than ever. Just two weeks ago he performed before a sold-out crowd in the Washington, D.C. area.
Whenever he performs in Las Vegas tickets are priced at the triple-digit level and usually sell out in a matter of minutes. Al Green will be coming to Music City Sept. 17, as he performs with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra at the Schermerhorn Center.
Get those tickets while there’s still time left. Green will of course be delighting the crowd with some of his classic favorite hits: Love and Happiness, Tired of Being Alone, For the Good Times and so many more. But he will also introduce fans to music from his current CD, Lay It Down. The music is 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. Here, Al Green chats about charisma, music, movies, Presidents and the church.
TRIBUNE: You’ve been a pastor for over three decades. How do you balance Rev. Al Green the pastor with Al Green the stage performer?
A. 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 their 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?’
TRIBUNE: 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?
A. 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!”
TRIBUNE: 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%.
A. GREEN: “Yes, that’s what some of my staff members told me. I don’t know too much about all of that internet stuff but they know how to count it. When it first happened back in January, they just told me the president sung one line of your song and it got all of these thousands of downloads. So I told somebody that was great news and I wished next time he would sing the whole song!
TRIBUNE: It’s election season. Maybe he should consider doing an entire album of yours if it means getting re-elected.
A. GREEN: “That’s right. If that’s what it takes to get the votes. He would for sure have all of the women voters (he laughs) Yeah, he’s a handsome devil.”
TRIBUNE: 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?
A.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.”
TRIBUNE: There seems to be a lot of ministers who are becoming film makers. Do you have any plans on going into the film business?
A.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.”
TRIBUNE: If a movie is made about your life story, which actor would you like to see star as Al Green?
A.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.”
TRIBUNE: Denzel Washington would probably be a good candidate for the role.
A. 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.”
TRIBUNE: You’ve been the pastor of Full Gospel Tabernacle Church (Memphis) for 36 years. I must come visit sometime.
A.GREEN: “Yes, please come visit us and bring some friends. We always have a great time. In addition to the local people, we’ve had visitors stop by from Australia, Ireland, Philippines, France, just everywhere. People from around the world have visited the church while they’re visiting Memphis.”
TRIBUNE: It’s been such a delight chatting with you. I haven’t talked with you in several years.
A.GREEN: “Thank you for taking the time to talk with me. Tell everyone in Nashville that Al Green said, Hey! I didn’t say Hi. I didn’t say Low. I said, Hey, and I look forward to seeing them when I get to town.”