Soul Singer Al Green's Still Got It After all of his hits, Al Green is taking his six-decade career in new directions. NPR's Tony Cox talks with the R&B legend about his new album, Lay It Down. This time, he worked with artists like Questlove, the drummer for the hip hop band The Roots.
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Soul Singer Al Green's Still Got It

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Soul Singer Al Green's Still Got It

Soul Singer Al Green's Still Got It

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(Soundbite of song "Let's Stay Together")


"Let's Stay Together," "Tired of Being Alone," "Love and Happiness." After all these hits, Al Green is taking his six-decade career in new directions. His latest CD is called "Lay It Down." It has him working with the new generation of artists like ?uestlove, the drummer for the hip-hop band, the Roots, and the producer of "Lay It Down." NPR's Tony Cox caught up with Al Green to talk about the new CD.

TONY COX: Al Green, welcome to the show. It's wonderful to have you on. How are you doing?

Mr. AL GREEN (Singer, Musician): I'm just fine. I'm just glad to be on NPR, you know. How're you doing?

COX: Listen. I've got to tell you a quick story.


COX: I was talking about...

Mr. GREEN: Fire away!

COX: I was talking about you at the barbershop yesterday.


COX: Apparently, you performed at the opening of the Galen Center out here at USC in L.A. last year.

Mr. GREEN: Yeah.

COX: And, so I asked the barber - you know how it is in a barbershop. I asked the barber, how did he sound? And he said, damn good. So, that means people are - they're feeling you. They're feeling you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GREEN: I hope they feel this "Lay It Down." I mean, the "Lay It Down" is going to tell whether they're feeling me or not, for real. Oh, yeah. It's a good CD, I think.

(Soundbite of song "Lay it Down")

Mr. GREEN and Mr. ANTHONY HAMILTON: (Singing) Lay it down, lay it down, lay it down, Put your head on the floor Lay it down, lay it down, lay it down

Mr. GREEN: (Singing) I just met you just the other day...

COX: What would you say - I know you get asked this often, but what would you say is the secret of being so successful for such a long period of time?

Mr. GREEN: You've got to take your time, go for what you want and never give up.

COX: Let's talk about "Lay It Down."

Mr. GREEN: "Lay It Down."

COX: Because this is something that is really special, I think. What was it like recording and working with young artists? Not just because they're young, but because oftentimes, young people have different musical tastes and sensibilities, don't they?

Mr. GREEN: I would say so, yeah.

COX: So what was it like with ?uestlove or the Roots, and Corinne Bailey Rae and John Legend and Anthony Hamilton, working with them?

Mr. GREEN: It was like a family. It was like a family. It was like family. That's three times I've said it. It was like family. I mean, Anthony Hamilton is going to sing about I love you, you're all that means - that matters to me.

(Soundbite of song "Lay it Down")

Mr. GREEN and Mr. HAMILTON: (Singing) I don't want nobody, no, no, no Nobody else Lay it down, lay it down Oh yeah, let it go Oh baby, fall in love Put your head on the floor, lay it down Lay it down, let it go Fall in love Hey, one more thing...

Mr. GREEN: Then, John Legend is going to sing the love, love, love, which is for Janet Rich (ph) up here. She's laughing. She's on the mic, too.

(Soundbite of song "Stay with Me")

Mr. GREEN and Mr. JOHN LEGEND: (Singing) In the morning light, Orange shades of white You're the only woman to try So it's hard for me I'm saying goodbye La, la, la, oh, la, la, la...

Mr. GREEN: So I mean, Al is going to sing about, you know...

(Singing) I'm so tired of being alone.

So I mean, there you go.

COX: Absolutely, it's vintage.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of applause)

COX: It was vintage Al Green. And particularly, "Lay It Down," the title track with Anthony Hamilton, and for me, also, the songs "Just for Me" and "You've Got the Love I Need."

Mr. GREEN: You've got the love, baby. Yeah, I need.

(Soundbite of song "You've Got the Love I Need")

Mr. GREEN: (Singing) Stardust in the sky I either love you or die I gotta have you in my life I really want to make you my wife, ooh...

You got the love that I need, babe. You got the love that I need, babe. Yeah, you got the love that I need, babe. You got the love that I need, babe.

Mr. GREEN: And you know what I'm so happy about is I went and wrote my verse, Anthony Hamilton, he wrote his own verse, and then we sang on the bridge and out. There you go.

COX: It sounded great.

Mr. GREEN: Thanks.

COX: You know, I have another question to ask you, and I've often been curious about this. One of the signature sounds that I think that you have is this - what I'll describe as this falsetto hum. You know what I'm talking about?

Mr. GREEN: Yeah.

COX: How did that - because when I hear that, obviously, it's Al Green, no matter where you are. How did that come about, Al?

Mr. GREEN: By practicing.

(Singing) haaai, haaaai (ph).

COX: The new CD has been received pretty warmly, from what I have read. And the song that seems to be generating a great deal of critical acclaim is the duet with John Legend. Is that right?

Mr. GREEN: Yeah. Yeah, I'd really - it is really is doing a great job, and I am just amazed that the reception has gotten, and John is doing a great job on it, and that's Corinne Bailey Rae and myself back there in the background. So, we are all singing on it, yeah.

COX: One of the things that I noticed in looking at photographs of you over the years, from the '70s through the '80s and '90s and now is, Al Green, you look good still.

Mr. GREEN: Oh, man.

COX: How do you keep yourself together?

Mr. GREEN: You should see me now, man. I am in a three-piece, man, white shirt and tie. All of this is for you, man. I got some Concourse (ph) shoes on, the little Concourse gym shoes, you know? Hey, man. I am cool, baby. I'm cool.

(Soundbite of laughter)

COX: You still enjoy performing live?

Mr. GREEN: I just did New Orleans the other day. It stopped raining just in time for us to get on stage, and the good Lord kept the rain away for an hour and 20 minutes. And when we were saying goodbye, thank you, ladies and gentlemen, it started to sprinkle again.

COX: Really?

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of applause)

COX: Al, what's the difference...

Mr. GREEN: Tony!

(Soundbite of laughter)

COX: Now, tell me a little bit - we don't talk - we're not talking much about your personal life. But are you a family man now? Or you're just - are you...

Mr. GREEN: Yeah, yeah.

COX: And how does your - how does that all fit into Al Green's world? Because you have so many things going on.

Mr. GREEN: Well, I mean, like my boy yesterday, we had to have a talk about his schooling, and about him doing and getting grades that he should be getting, and what group he should in, instead of the one he is in. And so, we went out and had dinner, and we talked about this things, and we got an agreement that we're going to have to start doing a homework first, have dinner next, go over the homework, and be ready for school the next morning. We're going to apologize to our teachers for the things that we said that was not correct, and we are going to turn a new leaf, start over. And he said, Dad, that's a good idea.

(Soundbite of laughter)

COX: Al Green, I want to thank you, family man, spiritual man, music man, performer. You are one of the classics, and I wish you all the best with "Lay It Down."

Mr. GREEN: Thanks, Tony.

(Soundbite of song "Take Your Time")

Mr. GREEN and Ms. CORINNE BAILEY RAE: (Singing) Just you take your time...

CHIDEYA: That was NPR's Tony Cox speaking with musician Al Green. And that's News & Notes. Nicole Childers and Christabel Nsiah-Buadi produced the show. Sasha Woodruff (ph) edits, and Kenya Young (ph) is our director. Our technical director is Sherene Strausberg. Carlos Asencio (ph) is our drive engineer. Our staff includes Geoffrey Bennett, Roy Hurst, Devon Robbins, Ernie Champell (ph), Geoffrey Gardner, Zachary Slobig (ph), Drew Tewkesbury (ph) and Professor Tony Cox.

To listen to the show or subscribe to our podcast, visit our website, To join the conversation or sign up for our newsletter, visit our blog at News & Notes was created by NPR News and the African-American Public Radio Consortium. Next week, our bloggers' roundtable explores the stories that are heating up in cyber space.

(Soundbite of song "Take Your Time")

Ms. RAE: (Singing) You and I, I want to take a little time...

CHIDEYA: I'm Farai Chideya. This is News & Notes.

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