It’s also filled with media folk who have traveled to Memphis to ask the 68-year-old how he feels about receiving one of this year’s Kennedy Center Honors.During our 45-minute window, Green is energetic, quick to laugh, even quicker to break into song.To get there today, head south toward the outskirts of Memphis, down Elvis Presley Boulevard, past Graceland, past the fast food, past the nail salons, hang a right on the road with the November foliage worthy of a jigsaw puzzle, and look for the small white church with the big white Mercedes-Benz parked outside.Inside the Full Gospel Tabernacle, the paint is chipping and the pews are creaky. Ordained as a Baptist minister, Green has been leading this modestly sized, nondenominational church for nearly 40 years, and this Sunday’s service is a free-form mix of Scripture, sermon and song, with Green’s voice soaring high above his choir’s.That bliss has slipped in and out of his hands since childhood.More than four decades after writing “Tired of Being Alone,” Al Green is still very much exactly that. ” This is what he howls when he’s excited, and on Monday morning the office behind his church is filled with yeee-haws.And then, at the height of his fame, he started answering to a voice more sublime than his own.Green says that God first steered his car to this church back in 1976.
Because even though Green’s greatest hits exalt the bliss of human communion, he lives alone in rural seclusion.
Al Green is one of five performers named a Kennedy Center honoree.
The Post's Chris Richards details the soul man's lifelong quest to tame his loneliness and how it helped craft his musical style.
But his left foot won’t stop tapping anxious 16th notes into the carpet. He answers most questions with forthright brevity, then darts off on scattered digressions.
(Jason Aldag/The Washington Post) The moms are digging in their purses for marshmallows. Because they’ve been stuck in the pews for nearly three hours. Because the man at the pulpit is singing in a celestial falsetto that seems to know the contours of heaven. Toward the back of the church: tourists from France, Brazil, Israel, Denmark, South Africa. Toward the front: ladies in fabulous hats, men in boxy suits, marshmallow moms and their antsy children. If the story of American R&B unfolds in the tension between Saturday night and Sunday morning, Green may be its truest protagonist.
In the early ’70s, he sang about devotion and desire with a gospel-grade elegance that made him a star, a sage and a sex symbol.