By Lea M. Cash –
It’s October 2010, and summer has long been officially over. As a reminder, there is a chill in the air, with the sun setting a littler earlier, brings about darkness, a harvest or crescent moon, sweaters and boots, giving indication to the fact that soon it will be time to roll our clocks forward once again.
We are all in this movement together, this understanding of nature’s way. Whether we like it or not, acceptance is mandatory usually by October, producing a swing into holiday cheer or depression.
For the Baby Boomers, those in this special generation who remodeled society it is simply the recognizable beginning of the close to another year in the autumn of their lives. They have reached their golden years and retirement is the order of the day.
Recently, I attended the Al Green concert at San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino in Highland. I watched the grey-haired Boomers parading into the sold out venue. Many groups of hard working men with names like Bob, their wives or significant others to reminisce through old school music and song. The women, they came in groups, by the droves, dressed to the nines in October gear. Right on the dot, it is 8:00 PM. Their anticipation is over and the legendary Al Green appears.
He is 64 years old, pleasingly plump, extraordinary in every way. He displays his infectious wide grin, and is holding his signature red roses that he throws throughout his performance to the ladies. The audience explodes in pandemonium for a man who sings their language.
Which is why, several times during his performance, he says to the crowd, “Ya’ll are going to make me forget the words.” For the Boomers with their excitement, with each song, out sang him. It was an honest-hearted singing along, completely off key, yet word for word, a simple way to tell a legend, “Hello dear friend. We love you.”
I am a Boomer as well. So, I had my moments. I thought back to 1972 when my best friend Sharon and I went to an Al Green concert. We were freshmen in college, thinking we were all that God had created.
We wore hip hugger pants, sky-high afros, large hoop earrings, fake eyelashes and halter-tops. We made it backstage to Al Green, and got a ride home in his plush white limousine that evening.
Sharon and I talked about it for days until something new happened in our lives. Still to this day, Sharon who I met in seventh grade and who still lives in Boston, where I was raised, reminds me of our Al Green concert, and how we made it back stage and spent the evening with Al Green. I wondered if he would remember being nice to two college girls, giggly and in awe of him. Naw! That was so long ago.
When Green performed his string of legendary hits from the early 70’s, taking the Boomers back to a time and place, three decades removed, the sing along, with folks dancing in the aisles as if no one was looking, lifted the spirits and warmed the heart.
With every yell, or sway of Green’s hips the audience went crazy which motivated the legend to sing louder, producing a voice full of falsetto swoops, booming louder than the funky bass and horn arrangements.
Green says to the audience, “Some people want to know do I still got it?” “Well, let me show you,” he continues. The Boomers are in ecstasy. They cheer him on, the louder the applause the faster his legs moved—an entertainer of the highest order.
Green once told a reporter, “I’m not trying to fool anybody. I’m a Christian, but I’ve lived a life that full. I’ve been married a couple of times, been up and been down, been right and been wrong. You go through in life these things. But at the end of the day it’s about family, it’s about kids. Life is about devotion.”
Words spoken like a true Boomer, healing the old wounds of living a full life, causing a ripple effect that touches the lives of his fans.
Unquestionably, a soul music legend who was born on a farm in Arkansas, April 1946, knew his audience. He has been singing professionally since the age of nine with his brothers, The Greene Brothers, a family gospel quartet. Years later in his solo career, he dropped the (e) and became Al Green. His breakthrough came in 1971 with “Tired of Being Alone.” Then followed a slew of hits that kept him in the Top 10 and Top 40 through 1976. Hits like “Let’s Stay Together”, “I’m Still In Love With You”, and the all time classic “Love and Happiness.”
He performs them all.
There is a list of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time” that Rolling Stone Magazine presents. Al Green is number 65. In 1995, presented by Natalie Cole, he was inducted in the Rock and Roll, Hall of Fame from shaping a sound that has defined its own place in pop and R& B music.
Richard Valles, 59 from West Covina said, “Old school, soul music is real music.” He continues, “Nothing these kids sing about today relates to me. Al Green speaks my language.
I teach my kids old school music.” In one hour, the concert is over. The Boomers scatter to all four corners of San Manuel. Many are still humming their favorite Al Green tune and remembering their lives in days gone by.