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    CHEERS to Bill and Michael in PWM, our friend commonmass who needs our help and prayers, our Wyoming-based friend Irish Patti and ...... well, each of you at Cheers and Jeers. Have a fabulous weekend, everyone.

    FRIDAY's CHILD is Polly the Cat - an English kitteh who survived an estimated 1,700 journey in a train's undercarriage ... and is now recuperating before returning to her family.

    LAST NIGHT yours truly hosted the Top Comments diary, which looked at the life of the late Peter Norman - who was not an interloper in one of the 20th Century's most iconic photos (that of Tommie Smith and John Carlos displaying the Black Power salue at the 1968 Olympics) but was a (subtle) supporter of their cause ... and how his family fought to win a (posthumous) apology in the Australian Parliament for the way he was treated ... and succeeded.

    BRAIN TEASER - try this Quiz of the Week's News from the BBC.

    THIS COMING SUNDAY I will feature Odds & Ends - a weekly wrap-up diary of all of my postings this week, circa noon Eastern (9 AM Pacific). I hope you'll vote in the "Who Lost the Week?!?" poll (a mirror image of the one Bill posts). There are loads of misfits lined-up for your consideration (such as Sen. Ron Johnson, Ohio's state Board of Ed president, Israel's Likud Party, New Mexico's Cathrynn Brown, and Sarah Palin) ... and the week's not over yet.

    SATURDAY's CHILD is Fletcher the Cat - an English kitteh whose first time out in the snow video has gone viral.

    .......and finally (repeated for the West Coasters) for a song of the week ........................the first major soul singer to emerge in the 1970's was Al Green and while his career has had its ups-and-downs financially, he's never stopped singing the past forty years - it's only a question of what his audience is. Among the various phases of his career (including the ministry) Al Green always enjoyed being before people, and with a voice (from sweet to falsetto) that stays with you, long afterwards.

    The Forrest City, Arkansas native began as part of a family Gospel Act known as the Green Brothers, who toured the South before relocating to Grand Rapids, Michigan in the 1950's. Alas, his father fired Al from the group at age 16 after catching his son listening to ..... Jackie Wilson - yes, really. He formed his own band (eventually known as the Soul Mates) who actually reached #5 on the R&B charts with "Back Up Train" in 1968 yet who fell upon hard times and eventually split-up.

    It was forty years ago (while on tour) that Al Green's big break came: meeting Hi Records VP Willie Mitchell who saw the potential in Green and not only signed him (as a solo artist) but also became his producer (weaving together horn and string arrangements fluidly).

    Al Green's 1970 debut album Green is Blues sold modestly but garnered him notice, preparing everyone for the smash follow-up Al Green Gets Next To You with the single .. Tired of Being Alone becoming his first hit.

    In 1972 his career was in full throttle, with his 1972 single Let's Stay Together reaching #1 on the charts. He went on to more success with "I'm Still in Love with You", "Love and Happiness" and "Call Me (Come Back Home)". Then came the tune Take Me to the River - ranked by Rolling Stone as #117 on its 500 Greatest Songs list, and it spawned a popular cover by the Talking Heads five years later.

    In late 1974, the first of two events that led him into the ministry occurred: a former girlfriend broke into his home, pouring boiling grits on him (causing second-degree burns) before she committed suicide with Green's gun. He interpreted this as a sign-from-heaven and purchased a Memphis church, becoming an ordained pastor of the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Memphis.

    Despite this, he continued to record R&B in the late 70's - but his sound was overtaken by the disco boom, with a major drop in sales. After injuring himself on-stage in 1979, Green saw this as the final sign-from-heaven and after a decade of hits parted ways with Mitchell and devoted himself in the 1980's to his ministry and Gospel (although he did appear in 1982 with Patti Labelle in the play Your Arms Too Short to Box with God on Broadway.

    Although he recorded secular songs on occasion ("Put a Little Love in your Heart" with Annie Lennox for the 1988 Bill Murray album "Scrooged") it was not until his 1994 "Funny How Time Slips Away" duet with Lyle Lovett - Green's 9th Grammy-winner - that he began to record more popular music.

    In 2000 he released his autobiography Take Me to the River and recorded some modest-selling Gospel and R&B recordings.        

    This past decade saw a revival of his R&B career. Bruce Lundvall - a one-time president of Columbia Records - became the head of the venerable jazz label Blue Note (celebrating its 70th anniversary this year) and jazz is still their mainstay. But with his background, Lundvall wanted other high quality acts (in different genres) on his label, so he added Norah Jones, Anita Baker and Al Green, among others.

    Joining forces in 2003 with Willie Mitchell for the first time (on a secular album) in decades, Al Green went back to his roots and created an old-fashioned soul album - yet with all new material and not simply a nostalgia trip - in I Can't Stop that brought his music to a new audience as well as making his old fans happy. I recall one DownBeat reviewer writing, "It's amazing to hear old-time music sound so fresh".

    He has followed this up with 2005's Everything's OK and had his greatest album success in 35 years in 2008 with Lay it Down - featuring duets with John Legend and Corrine Bailey Rae - that reached #9 on the album charts.

    Turing age 67 this coming April, if Al Green's career ended tomorrow: it would have reached legendary status long ago with induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1995, the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2004, plus Halls of Fame in Michigan, his home state of Arkansas plus the city of Memphis ... wherever he goes, it seems like home. And he was named as #66 on Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Artists of All Time this past decade.

    The Reverend Al Green preaches/sings for all to hear at his church in Memphis today - his services are popular with tourists from here and abroad, though reviewers note that the church building is hot in summer, and that you'll see/hear true Pentecostal goings-on (speaking in tongues, an occasional diatribe against gays and the services can last a long time).

    But he still tours with his secular music, and had to decline an invitation to sing at President Obama's second inauguration due to a scheduling conflict. He hopes to make up that opportunity, and is worth traveling to see when he does tour.


    Of all of his songs, it is a ballad from his 2003 "I Can't Stop" comeback album, entitled Not Tonight that is my favorite ... and below you can hear it.

    You've been there from day one
    You've been there since my life's begun
    I don't know just how to explain
    How I feel about you

    And I'd never go and leave you
    (That's one thing about me)
    I'll never go and deceive you
    I'd never go and bring you
    And then turn and go away from you

    Take my advice
    Don't you never, never
    Think about it twice
    All my life, all my life

    Don't get on that train
    And don't get on that plane
    Baby, not tonight
    Baby, not tonight
    'Cause I'm in love with you
    And I swear, you know it's true
    Baby, not tonight

    "We should pay attention to that man behind the curtain."

    by Ed Tracey on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 04:41:48 PM PST

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