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Al Green

Soul legend Al Green hasn't released many albums this decade, so any report of new tracks is exciting news for his fans.

The latest such news is that Green will contribute to one of the three LPs that rappers De La Soul are scheduled to release this year.

Green was born 53 years ago today in Forest City, Ark. There he formed a gospel group with his brothers when he was 9. The Green Brothers gigged through the South in the mid-'50s.

Green's family relocated to Grand Rapids, Mich., and a few years later his tastes switched to rhythm-and-blues music. Green' s first R&B group was Al Green and the Creations -- later called the Soul Mates. The group recorded on Hot Line Music Journal, a label owned by two of the band's members, Palmer James and Curtis Rogers.

The Soul Mates' first single, "Back up Train," was a #5 R&B hit, but the band was unable to reach the charts again. Bandleader Willie Mitchell signed Green as a solo act to his Hi Records in 1969. Mitchell helped Green record his debut LP, 1970's Green Is Blues.

Critics loved Green's horn-filled rhythms and his sexy falsetto, but the LP wasn't a sales blockbuster. Green first achieved healthy sales with the follow-up, Al Green Gets Next to You, which spawned his first hit, "Tired of Being Alone" (RealAudio excerpt). Three more gold singles followed.

Let's Stay Together, with its #1 title cut, broke Green through to the masses in 1972. I'm Still in Love With You sold even more and included another hit title track, as well as "Look What You Done for Me."

The following year Green issued Call Me, featuring the smash title cut and two more top-10 hits: "Here I Am" and "Sha-La-La (Make Me Happy)." While enjoying this success, Green was assaulted by an ex-girlfriend, who gave him second-degree burns by pouring boiling grits on his torso and arms. The woman then killed herself.

Green became a minister of the Full Gospel Tabernacle while recovering

from the incident and soon bought a church in Memphis, Tenn. He continued to record

soul LPs, but to less critical acclaim and to diminished sales. One exception was the critically praised The Belle Album (1977).

In 1979 Green was injured in a fall from a stage and announced his retirement from secular music. He went on preaching and issued a number of gospel albums. In 1982 Green appeared with Patti Labelle in the gospel musical "Your Arms Too Short to Box with God."

His most notable record appearance in the next decade was "Put a Little

Love in Your Heart," a 1988 duet with Annie Lennox for the movie

"Scrooged." A few years later Green issued -- only in the UK -- his first

soul album in years, Don't Look Back. But in 1995 came the

mass-released Your Heart's in Good Hands, a well-received R&B

album that nevertheless was not a hit. That same year Green was inducted

into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Green's sexy soul music -- highlighted by his famous moans and groans -- has influenced many singers, including the late Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson and the Artist.

Other birthdays: Lester Chambers (Chambers Brothers), 59; Jack Cassady (Jefferson Airplane), 55; Peabo Bryson, 48; Max Weinberg (E Street Band), 48; Jimmy Destri (Blondie), 45; Louis Johnson (Brothers Johnson), 44; Wayne Lewis (Atlantic Starr), 42; Hiro Yamamoto (ex-Soundgarden), 38; Kenny Withrow (Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians), 34; Marc Ford (the Black Crowes), 33; Lowell George (Little Feat), 1945-1979; and Hillel Slovak (Red Hot Chili Peppers), 1962-1988.