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NOAH ADAMS, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Noah Adams.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michele Norris. And now, a conversation about love. I mean, who can deny the world needs more love? Soul singer Al Green has spent his entire career trying to spread the love. Green became famous singing love songs in the 1970s, with hits like "Let's Stay Together" and "Tired of Being Alone." In the '80s, he shifted to gospel and released several religious albums. Now, Al Green has shifted back to secular music with his latest album, "Lay It Down."

(Soundbite of song, "Lay it Down")

Mr. AL GREEN (Singer, Minister): (Singing) Lay it down, lay it down.

NORRIS: Listen to that voice. After all these years, he still has the magic. And when you sit down to talk to him, as I recently did, it's also clear that he's still in love with life and with the sound of his own voice.

(Soundbite of song, "Lay it Down")

Mr. GREEN: (Singing) Everything...

Listen at that boy. I've never seen such a smiling man. I'm telling you, that's a happy fellow.

NORRIS: At age 72, Green is also a happy fellow, boyishly playful - almost silly.

Mr. GREEN: (Singing) Michele Norris, Michele Norris...

(Soundbite of laughter)

NORRIS: Man, I never thought I'd hear Al Green singing my name. On this album, Green tries something new. Instead of working with his old-school Memphis rhythm section, he teamed up with younger artists. ?uestlove, the drummer for hip-hop band The Roots, served as co-producer, and contemporary artists like John Legend and Corinne Bailey Rae sang duets with Green. But even with all that new blood, the sound is still vintage Al Green. He told me that the music, much like love, is all about chemistry.

Mr. GREEN: We didn't have anything wrote down when we went in there. We just had an idea, and that's all we had. And we just started writing these songs. It's like everybody just jumped in and started making the music. That's what was important.

(Soundbite of song, "Lay it Down")

Mr. GREEN: (Singing) Laying it down.

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Lay it down.

Mr. GREEN: (Singing) Oh, yes.

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Let it go.

Mr. GREEN: (Singing) Oh, oh baby.

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Fall in love.

Mr. GREEN: (Singing) Put your hat on the floor. Whoa, lay it...

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Lay it down. Let it go.

Mr. GREEN: (Singing) I'm outta here.

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Fall in love.

NORRIS: You know, we're listening to the music, there are these moments where your feelings erupt or spill out. It's not necessarily in the form of lyrics, but these sort of sounds that you make. When you arrange the music, is - do you have that in mind? Does the moment call for a particular cry or hum or a yelp? Or is just in the moment when you record? Just depends on where your head is at when you step into the studio?

Mr. GREEN: It's basically to evoke emotion and love, love, love. That's what "Lay It Down" is about.

(Soundbite of song, "Lay it Down")

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Lay it down.

Mr. GREEN: (Singing) Put your needs down.

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Let it go.

Mr. GREEN: (Singing) Oh, my.

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Fall in love.

Mr. GREEN: (Singing) Lay your body...

That's when you're tired, baby.

(Soundbite of song, "Lay it Down")

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Lay it down. Let it go.

NORRIS: Put your keys down.

Mr. GREEN: Put your hat down. Put your (unintelligible) down. Put everything down. There's nothing going nowhere.

(Soundbite of song, "Lay it Down")

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Let it go. Fall in love.

Mr. GREEN: (Singing) If you've had enough now.

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Lay it down. Let it go. Fall in love. Lay it down. Let it go. Fall in love.

Mr. GREEN: (Singing) All I want you to do is lay it down now.

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Lay it down. Let it go.

Mr. GREEN: (Singing) Lay it down.

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Fall in love.

Mr. GREEN: (Singing) Say it, say it, say it, say it. Hey!

NORRIS: Now, Mr. Green, is seems like the music industry has fallen out of love with love songs, and this CD is full of love songs.

Mr. GREEN: Yeah, it's full of love songs. There is love in it, out it, on the side of it, on top of, on the bottom of it - there's love all over it, everywhere. Yes.

NORRIS: Was that important to you?

Mr. GREEN: Yeah. It's very important that we keep love in the hip-hop, rap. Yeah.

NORRIS: Has the hip-hop movement, has that - have they moved away from that? Is that something that got lost?

Mr. GREEN: Well, I mean, I also have to say that a lot of times on the spring vacation - I watched that on TV, with the kids out by the beach. And it was about the rap and the shirt off, the physical drive of it, which is, we know, is not the most important drive - the physical drive is fine, but still, there's a greater drive than that. There's a, you know, a more soulful, a more emotional inner drive that makes things possible. Yeah.

(Soundbite of song, "Take Your Time")

Mr. GREEN: (Singing) (unintelligible) Now everything is going fast. You're the best thing I ever had. And losing you, oh, make me, make me, that would make me feel so bad - bad. Won't you help me sing?

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Just you take your time.

NORRIS: Now you're also the Right Reverend Al Green.

Mr. GREEN: Absolutely.

NORRIS: Still acting in a Full Gospel Tabernacle Church in Memphis, Tennessee.

Mr. GREEN: Absolutely.

NORRIS: I going to...

Mr. GREEN: There is one here in town.

NORRIS: I'm just curious, now. When we hear a song like "Take Your Time..."

Mr. GREEN: Yeah.

NORRIS: ...what do the folks at Full Gospel think of that when you're singing these kind of love songs?

Mr. GREEN: The people at my church said they hadn't heard anything else. It's the most beautiful thing they ever heard. They like the idea of obeying God. And God said you should love. Now love may start out primitive, but if you give it a chance and give it time, it'll grow into everlasting love.

NORRIS: A thing of beauty.

Mr. GREEN: A thing of absolute beauty.

(Soundbite of song, "Take Your Time")

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Just you take your time. Oh, no, no. Just you take your time.

Mr. GREEN: Yeah. That's important, to take time to fall in love again, baby.

(Soundbite of song, "Take Your Time")

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Just...

NORRIS: Now you grew up in a musical family. Your brother sang, also. You're the son of a share cropper.

Mr. GREEN: Yeah.

NORRIS: When did you realize that your voice had a certain power to it? That you had power over people if you used your voice the right way?

Mr. GREEN: Because I - it's not me that's speaking. It's not me. It's another individual speaking through me. When I'm singing "Standing in the Rain," it ain't about having a good time. "Standing in the Rain" is going through the hardships, heartaches, day-to-day trials and the whole thing of this whole life. That's what "Standing in the Rain" means.

(Soundbite of song, "Standing in the Rain")

Mr. GREEN: (Singing) I withstood all the pain, standing out there in rain. Do you know my name? Mr. Enduring Pain and Shame. That's my name. Now, now. Everything's in my hands, standing out here in rain. Yeah, yeah.

That's why he's saying dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, because I'm not going to worry about it. I'm just going to keep on going.

(Soundbite of song, "Standing in the Rain")

Mr. GREEN: (Singing) You've gotta help me rain. You've gotta help me rain. Now don't let nobody stop you.

(Singing) Dah, dah, dah, dah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GREEN: I ain't gonna worry about a thing.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of song, "Standing in the Rain")

Mr. GREEN: He's on his way out now, babe.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Singing) 'Cause it's going to be better, I know...

NORRIS: With a smile on his face.

(Soundbite of laughter)

NORRIS: Yahoo!

(Soundbite of laughter)

NORRIS: Al Green, thank you for coming by to talk to us. All the best to you.

Mr. GREEN: Thanks, Michele Norris. I love you.

NORRIS: And you can listen to songs from Al Green's new album "Lay it Down" at our Web site: npr.org/music.

You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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