A sign in Memphis, not far from the homes of Stax and Hi Records. Which reminds me: Al Green’s ‘Simply Beautiful’ might be one of the most gorgeous songs ever recorded. Raw and vivid, with that reassuring voice pushed right up front and a dead simple arrangement until a steady backbeat kicks in at 3:30:

Al Green – Simply Beautiful
from I’m Still in Love With You. Hi Records, 1972 | buy mp3s

The lyrics don’t quite capture the grace of this song, but here’s a sampling:

What about the way you love me, aww
And the way you squeeze me, yeah
Yea, ya simply beautiful
Yeah, yeah, beautiful, yeah
When you get right down to it
Oh, mmh-hmm
Oh, ho, huh
Oh, ho, ho, huh
Mmh-hmm, hmm, hmm
Ay, hey, baby!
Yeah, yeah, yeah, ha, ha
Baby, yeah, when you need me
I’ll be right there
Beside you, girl, yeah
You know I care
Listen, baby
Baby, baby
Heeeyyy, yeah, yeah
Naw, girl

After wild success in the early 1970s, Al Green turned his back on secular music. The back story is grim: in 1974, one of Green’s girlfriends assaulted him. She heaved a pan of boiling grits at the singer and killed herself in his bedroom with his .38-caliber pistol. Her suicide note said, “The more I trust you, the more you let me down.” After recovering in the hospital with third-degree burns, Green fully dedicated his life to God, becoming an ordained pastor of the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Memphis.

Someday I’d like to make a list of all the dark episodes that drive us to God (they always seem to be dark moments, never upbeat). For another American classic with dark corners, see Tina Turner’s ‘River Deep, Mountain High‘.

Sources: see ‘Scared Straight’ in Entertainment Weekly; the Wikipedia briefing on Al Green