searching for his soul in gospel
dromasca from Herzlya, Israel
21 December 2011
This film is an interesting snapshot of a career that spins already for
almost half a century. Born in Arkansas in 1946, Green made to himself
a name since the mid-60s on the scene of soul music, which enjoyed a
great success and was promoted widely, nationally in the US and
internationally together with other trends (like pop, rock and folk) of
the musical revolution of the 'flower power' generation.
And then, in 1974 the change happened. A personal life incident
(described by Green in the documentary film in a different version than
the one recorded by other sources like the Wikipedia entry dedicated to
the singer) triggered a process of returning to religion, and in only a
couple of year we see Green becoming a reverend and buying his own
church (this is also described in the documentary).
More and more gospel takes precedence in his records and performances.
The documentary itself includes testimonies by Al Green's musical
partners about his beginnings, about the road to success, and his
transformation from a soul to a gospel artist. The musical parts are
recorded in one of his performances at a military base, and in his own
church in Memphis and this is certainly the most interesting part, as
it documents how music becomes part of the religious discourse and
ceremonies, and how the word gospel truly merges and combines its two
As I said the film was made in 1984, at a time when his life was mostly
dedicated to religion and as a singer he was singing only gospel. More
than a quarter of century later we know however that as his career
continued, Green returned to some of his non-religious songs, in a
tentative to regain some of the success of his younger years.
The 1984 film catches Green at a point in his evolution, which did not
follow exactly the expected track. Asked in the film how he sees his
life and career 20 or 30 years later, he predicts an universal
acceptance of the gospel, and him as a priest of it. It is however more
to the non-religious soul music that he is still known today, while the
religious fulfillment did not disappear but was pushed back more to the
space of his private life.
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