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Gospel According to Al Green
By Elaine Hegwood Bowen
If you want some old-time religion mixed with some love and happiness, then all you have to do is run out and buy the Gospel According to Al Green DVD that’s being released January 27.
It’s the 25th Anniversary edition of a 1984 taping from the great Acorn Media Group and features a 90-minute audio interview with the legendary Al Green, reflections by director Robert Mugge, concert excerpts, extended songs, extended audio excerpts of church services and the original theatrical trailer.
Green is class Green, as he sings and shares intimate journeys of his life.
The DVD offers an up-close-and-personal look at the charismatic soul legend who has an “unshakeable faith and an incandescent smile.”
“Marvelous,” says The New York Times.
“Transcendent,” says the Chicago Sun-Times.
“A Must-See,” says Variety.
“Extraordinary,” says The Boston Globe.
“A powerful vocal spectacle…James Brown times ten,” says the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner.
And I agree wholeheartedly with all analyses of the great Al Green. He mixes soulful riffs that we’d only hear from Wilson Pickett with the sexiness of Smokey Robinson, and somehow it comes out Gospel.
Green had abandoned commercial success and started his own church and began recording entirely Gospel music. “It’s a dramatic story,” Mugge explains. “He [Green] flew too close to the sun, got his eyeballs burnt and has been singing ever since with fire coming out of his mouth.”
The tapings didn’t come easy, as director Mugge explains that it took him more than a year to persuade Green to allow him to do the project, back in late December 1983.
But finally he prevailed, and Green was on high as he performed during a 7th anniversary celebration of his church.
Green is a nine-time Grammy® winner and member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, with more than 40 albums to his name. With the recent release of his chart-topping CD Lay It Down and receipt of the BET Lifetime Achievement Award (2008), he is in the national spotlight once more.
Many viewers may recall the emotional tribute to Green during last year’s BET Lifetime Achievement Award ceremony where singer Maxwell stole the show in a multi-layered homage to the iconic soul singer.
Green’s first song was called What Am I Going to Do with Myself? But afterward came such hits and Let’s Stay Together, and he delivers endearing renditions of Free At Last and Amazing Grace, among others, on the Gospel According to Al Green.
Green tells how he’d play in some clubs, singing his soul numbers first, with audience members getting “spiritually higher” once he started his Gospel selections.
The singer is also candid about the life-changing 1974 tragedy wherein hot grits were thrown on his body by a girlfriend, who later committed suicide in Green’s home. He says he later learned that the lady was married with children, although she had just asked Green to marry her. Green appears upset by this incident, so much so that he often asks other people if it really happened.
He says the woman, Mary Woodson, told him that she didn’t want to go on without him. He consoled her, telling her not to take a “do or die” attitude about it and that they should rethink their relationship, if they were to marry.
Green details how the woman started boiling water, and he had on a thin robe, and she appeared and threw the mixture on him.
“I’m full of it and in total pain and shock,” Green said. “I jumped in the shower and then soon heard a gunshot.”
He explains that he “couldn’t believe the pain,” before performing a soulful R&B version of Amazing Grace.
When Green began his Gospel music career, he had enjoyed much success with R&B; he had a million-dollar career and decided one day he’d rather praise God. Afterward he became a Pentecostal preacher and Gospel singer.
Filmed in the recording studio, in concert at the Bolling Air Force base and at Green’s church in Memphis, Tenn., the Gospel According to Al Green is “powered by his energy, honesty and smile.”
So whether you grew up on Al Green, was conceived during your parents’ night out on the town listening to Al Green, prefer a little soul with your Gospel or a little Gospel with your soul, Al Green is the epitome of a performer and has never been more open than he is in this DVD, the Gospel According to Al Green, brought to us by Acorn Media Group and scheduled for release January 27, 2009.
Elaine Hegwood Bowen is an editor, writer and film critic in Chicago.
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