Rant ‘N’ Roll: Sweet Soul Man Turns Sour

As I was too stoned to take notes reviewing Yes at Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City the summer of ’75, I split The Aquarian byline with a friend. Shortly after that, Al Green appeared to be even more stoned than I was as he fumbled through two songs at The Felt Forum in Manhattan, stopping the second one midway through to give out long-stemmed roses to the women in the front row. He took off his jacket to oohs and aahs, unbuttoned his shirt and told his band to stop playing so he could be with his “wonderful audience.”

I sat impatient, waiting as he started preaching about Jesus for a half-hour while he got all twisted in the microphone cord, then went into the crowd to kiss girls. When he got back onstage, he was giggling, having the time of his life. It had been over an hour and he had yet to complete two songs. Then he threw his sport jacket into the audience and an animalistic catfight ensued ripping the jacket to shreds.

Out came the opening act comedian to warn the crowd that if the fighting didn’t stop, the show would have to be cancelled. Al Green was oblivious as he continued to give out roses and when the women in front realized the star wasn’t ignoring them, but actually catering to them, the scene turned ugly as more and more girls vied for his attention, and the rest of the crowd started booing. One girl bum-rushed the stage and was violently thrown back into the crowd. I sensed a riot was about to start. Meanwhile, the star said, “It’s nice to be back in New York.” I think he sang five songs all night.

I’ve always loved Al Green. My son was conceived to Al Green’s music, and I just had to interview the man. Back then it was fairly easy to get to any star. The talk was set for a hotel outside Westbury Music Fair on Long Island. I was told to get there at 9 a.m. I thought it odd but I bundled up my wife, who also loved Al Green, and off we went at six in the morning from Montclair. We waited in the lobby before being told Al would be late and we should come back prior to the first of two shows. Great. Now we had all day to hang out in beautiful downtown Westbury.

Knocking on the dressing room door just prior to the first show, we were told Al would rather do the interview in-between shows.

Knocking on the dressing room door just after the first show, we were told Al would rather do the interview after the second show.

Knocking on the dressing room door after both shows, we were told Al ain’t talkin’. Period.
Al Green had no way of knowing how much the 20something hippie couple truly loved him. We had awakened that day at 5 a.m. to ostensibly talk to our musical hero. It was now 1 a.m. the next day. My wife didn’t listen to him for years afterwards. I still love him. The whole sorry episode reminds me of the old country song that Waylon Jennings used to sing called “Leave Them Boys Alone.”
“Hank Williams was the king of country soul/
My dad took me to see him in Lubbock but he didn’t show/

Now the people got mad and they all went home/

The first thing we did was put his records on/

I guess we should have left him alone and let him sing his songs.”


Mike Greenblatt would like to make Rant ‘N’ Roll interactive. Send him an email at mg2645@ptd.net and your comments, questions, complaints and complements will be part of this column.