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Top 10 Best Songs By Al Green

Sometimes referred to as “The Last of The Great Soul Singers,” Albert Leornes Greene, better known as Al Green, has recorded some of the greatest Soul songs in history.

His gifts to the world of music, and his community as a Pastor, have made him an endearing figure in the hearts and minds of millions around the world.

Best Songs By Al Green

Growing up…

Born the son of a sharecropper from Arkansas, Green showed a love of music from a very young age. He performed with family members and would almost religiously absorb any material he could find by singers like Mahalia Jackson, Wilson Picket, and Elvis Presley. 

Unfortunately, his father, who was a seriously religious person, did not approve. And the conflict eventually led to Al leaving home while still a teen. Al would later return to his faith by becoming a much-loved pastor.

While still in high school… 

Al got his first glimpse of musical success when he joined a group that eventually became known as Al Greene and the Soul Mates. They released a song called “Back Up Train,” which was a hit on the R&B charts. 

However, the group failed to produce any subsequent hits. While performing with the group, Green met record producer Willie Mitchell who would eventually sign him to his Hi Records label. 

Achievements…

Al Green is the recipient of eleven Grammy Awards, including a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award, Kennedy Center Honors, and a BMI Icon Award. Rolling Stone ranked him 65th on their 100 Greatest Artists of All Time and 14th on their list of the 100 Greatest Singers. 

With all that said, here are my picks for the best songs by Al Green.

Top 10 Best Songs By Al Green

Standing In The Rain 

Album: Lay It Down 

Lay It Down was a reawakening for Al in a lot of ways. Roots drummer, Questlove, was a producer on this record, and he worked tirelessly to get the record made. Both in the studio and out. “My whole goal was this has to be a follow-up to The Belle Album.” 

Many fans would agree…

The pair had succeeded with 2008’s Lay It Down. Many of the songs on the album could have been recorded on one of Greens’s albums from the 70s. For me, the last one on the record gets the pick, though. There is a sincerity to the performance Green put into this recording. 

Like many great Soul and R&B songs, the lyrics are very simple, but the message resonates at a deep emotional level. 

And, as always, the exquisite vocal performance seems to be done with little effort. You get the idea that this is just someone who is expressing himself to a backbeat, while a clear horn enters some phrases here and there. 

Look What You Done For Me

Album: I’m Still In Love With You

This one comes at us from what many might call the Golden Years. The relationship between Willie Mitchel and Green had not yet come to an end, and this song was one of its highest peaks. 

As with many of Al Green’s biggest hits, we have a beautifully arranged and recorded horn section. There were very few things that could accompany the singer better. Although, on this track, there is also a gorgeous string arrangement done by James Mitchell and Charles Chalmers. 

“Look what You Done For Me” imparts a strong sense of unconditional love for a family member or someone just as important. It climbed to #4 on The Billboard Hot 100 and #2 on the Hot Soul Singles chart. It has been certified gold by the RIAA. 

Georgia Boy

Album: The Belle Album

The Belle Album holds historical significance in the Al Green cannon. It was the first record to be released by Green after his split with longtime producer Willie Mitchell. At the time, it was the last Al Green record that would contain anything other than gospel music. 

Not only had Green decided to build his own studio and get new players, but he somehow found time to buy a church and become its pastor. 

In this tune… 

We see some strong country influences come through Green’s sound. This may have to do with some self-reflection. That’s because Al had been to Arkansas to try and find the small village he’d grown up in, only to realize he couldn’t because it was no longer there. The world had moved on. 

Green’s guitar work on this track stands out for me amongst many of his other pieces. There’s a very hypnotic quality to the throbbing rhythmic quality he creates with his playing. The accompanying players are fantastic as well. 

If you’ve always wanted to hear AL Green do a great country song, this is the one. And, even if you haven’t, it’s still one of the best songs by Al Green.

Sha La La (Make Me Happy) 

Album: Al Green Explores Your Mind

This song has been the subject of much discussion due to the timing of its release and the event that occurred shortly thereafter in Al Green’s life. Not only had he gone through a profoundly life-changing experience while visiting Disneyland, but he’d lost someone close to him. 

The song is a very enduring piece of music. It had a particular quality that some songs do of gaining more momentum as they age. It was also one of Green’s last million-selling singles for quite some time.

But, it was able to carry itself for decades and even found revival when it got used in the soundtrack for the 2003 semi-biographical film “Radio.” It remains one of the best Al Green songs ever written. And it also has some of the most exquisite strings ever produced on his recordings. 

Driving Wheel 

Album: Al Green Gets Next To You 

Al Green is a good example of an artist who found a lane and stuck to it. Although, he did make a dramatic change later and made only gospel music for more than ten years. He knows about consistency, that’s for sure. 

That being said, I always find artists experimenting a very refreshing experience. And here, we have Al bringing forth a new influx of sounds into his repertoire and breathing new life into an old 30s Roosevelt Sykes tune.

If you love Al, then you probably love his gorgeous soulful ballads and emotional gospel numbers. But now and again, you’re going to want some more tempo and rhythm. And, it’s good to know that the man has laid down plenty of that in his life. Here we have a great example. 

Take Me To The River

Album: Al Green Explores Your Mind 

Yes, hit versions of this tune were indeed recorded by Syl Johnson and Talking Heads. But, if anything, the success of those cover versions attests to the great songwriting inherent in this brilliant number penned by Green and his longtime guitar player Mabon “Teenie” Hodges. 

The song was named 117th on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Furthermore, Green chose to use the song’s title as the title for his biography published in 2000. 

Among the other artists who’ve covered this tune, we have Annie Lennox, Bruce Springsteen, and a band who had tremendous success with their version, Foghat. Al Green dedicated it to a distant cousin of his, Little Junior Parker, who once had worked with Howlin’ Wolf.

Beware

Album: Livin’ For You 

This one was a “take you by surprise” number, no matter what kind of listener you were. The song can be interpreted in many different ways. And the depth of this composition is elevated by the fact that there exists an eight-minute extended play version. 

As with all the collaborations penned between Mitchell, Green, and Hodges, there are simple lyrical ideas that are given life and complexity by the dynamic performance Green puts into them. 

The production, as always, is stellar. With what I can only imagine was one of the most challenging arrangements to produce. 

Extended version…

If you listen to it, you’ll hear the musicians going through their paces with some brilliant improvisations that explore some corners of Blues, Funk, and Jazz. 

There could be no better backdrop to this sometimes sinister and sometimes bittersweet song about the dangers of so-called lovers that have ulterior motives. 

L-O-V-E (LOVE)

Album: Al Green Is Love

“Love” is just one of those great, hard-hitting, upbeat Al Green songs that simply cannot be ignored. And, of course, it wasn’t. It’s one of Al Green’s most popular songs ever. 

The tune is another great creative collaboration between Al, Mitchell, and Hodges. It features a simple message, packaged in some beautifully simple lyrics backed by a vocal performance full of energy and passion. And finally, some superbly recorded and mixed accompanying instrumentation. 

“Love” was in the #1 spot on the R&B Singles chart for two weeks straight. Also, it managed to break into the Top 20 Pop Singles chart, peaking at #13. For me, this is one of the best songs to pick if you want to give a new listener an all-encompassing taste of the greatness that is Al Green. 

Love and Happiness 

Album: I’m Still In Love With You 

This track contains a very strong duality that lies at the heart of almost all of the best songs by Al Green. It is also part of what gives Al Green a sound like no other artist. 

Growing up, he was exposed to gospel music at church on Sundays. But, in his heart, he craved the sounds of Elvis and Mahalia Jackson, both of these would become precious to him.

And, when it came time to start making his own music, he found ways to mix the best of both these worlds into what would become his signature sound. 

Full of style…

The song has a bar-room type of rhythm. It’s like an insistent knocking on your door. The organ that was recorded for this track has a lot to do with that thumping rhythm. Once again, it attests to the fantastic production and arrangement skills of the artist and producers involved. 

“Love and Happiness” was rated #98 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs Ever. It was also #861 in Dave Marsh’s The Heart of Rock & Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made. All I know is that it’s one of Al Green’s most well known songs ever recorded. 

Tired of Being Alone

Album: Al Green Gets Next To You

By the time Green and Mitchell got round to recording the singer’s next album, quite a few things had changed. Not only personally but in terms of how they were recording as well. 

Willie Mitchell had decided to set up shop inside an old cinema. He based his idea on a theory of the sound frequencies being allowed to evolve further, thus making for a more expansive sound on the record. 

There was also a much more accomplished and better-equipped studio band available for the recording of Al Green Gets Next To You. A setup that many engineers and producers would attempt to copy over coming years. But, like many great records, the sound on this one was somehow just magical. 

How it came to be…

Green was at a stopover when the song came to him. He was taking a rest on a long drive back to Memphis from Detroit, where he had been to do a show. 

He began writing, and by the time he had finished penning what would become one of his greatest tunes, dawn was breaking over the horizon and coming through the window of his motel room.

“Tired of Being Alone” was one of Al Green’s most successful songs. It reached #11 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #7 on the Soul Singles Chart. Billboard ranked it as the #12 song for 1971. 

Looking For More Great Songs?

We have you covered. Take a look at our detailed articles on the Best Tina Turner Songs of All Time, the Best Louis Armstrong Songs of All Time, the Best Nitty Gritty Dirt Band Songs of All Time, the Best Songs by The Commodores, and the Best Funk Songs of All Time for more great song selections.

Of course, you need to hear those songs. So, check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Headphones Under $200, the Best Headphones for Music, the Most Comfortable Headphones, the Best Sound Quality Earbuds, the Best Bass Earbuds, and the Best True Wireless Earbuds you can buy in 2023.

Best Songs By Al Green – Conclusion

Al Green is one of the greatest voices ever to grace gospel and soul music. A talent and voice such as his don’t roll around often. 

And, when it does, you should count every record as a gift to the world of music. Green has been a generous giver because we have enough material to make ten more lists if we want. 

Until next time, happy listening.

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About Corey Hoffman

Corey is a multi-instrumentalist who has played in numerous bands over the years, some good, some not so good. He has also written countless songs and recorded five albums in professional studios across America. Today he is a hobby musician but still loves the guitar after over 15 years of playing.

He considers his writing as a way to share what he has learned over the decades with younger generations ad always can't wait to get his hands on the latest gear.

He lives just outside New York with his wife Barbara and their two German Shepherds, Ziggy and Iggy.

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