"Let's Stay Together," Al Green

Monday, March 26, 2012

source: RollingStone.com
For no reason whatsoever, "Let's Stay Together" by Al Green popped into my head this past week. Pretty much everyone knows this song, absorbs it or learns of it at some point while they're growing up. So though I've known the lyrics of this song for as long as I can remember, I've never really actually paid them any attention.

"I, I'm so in love with you," is certainly the sweetest sentiment in the song, but my favorite line is "you make me feel brand new," because that might be the most accurate description of falling in love I can think of. It really, really hits the nail on the head, doesn't it?

And of course, I absolutely loved it when President Obama broke out the first line of the song at the Apollo Theatre earlier this year. Awesome, just awesome. His voice ain't bad ... it ain't bad at all.

I have a funny Al Green story, kind of. It only peripherally has to do with Al Green, but I don't know what else to call it ... maybe my "First Year English Class Story." So my very first semester of college, I took an English class called "Critical Interpretation" with an offbeat professor. He was every bit the "mad professor" -- wild, overgrown hair, spectacles, and this hat. This hat resembled ... I don't even know. One of those rubber thumb thingies designed to make counting money easier. He told us his doctor had "prescribed" it to him for his migraines, and he demonstrated on the first day what he would sometimes look like when his migraines acted up. Imagine a very tight skull cap atop a rather large head of salt-and-pepper curls. I tried with all my might not to laugh.

We read fundamental poetry, poetry every English major should probably at some point read ... boring stuff, if you ask me. There was Shakespeare's sonnets, of course, and Donne. Maybe some Tennyson, William Blake and others I can no longer remember. For that semester's final paper, we were assigned something somewhat unusual. He wanted us to pick a verse out of the Bible and compare it to an Al Green song. For this project, he provided us with copies of every single Al Green song every recorded. I still have some of these CDs lying around the house. I thought this was one of the most bizarre yet creative assignments I'd ever been assigned, and I was excited about it. So was my professor. For two to three weeks at the end of the semester, we spent every 2 hour and 20 minute class period listening to records he would haul up and down the two or three flights of stairs (we watched him do this out the window, with the trunk door of his car waving warmly at us). He would spent 20 to 30 minutes of each of these class periods hauling tote bag after tote bag of records up the stairs, and we would watch him as he carefully chose a particular song he wanted to play for us, and then fumbled with the record player.

One time, the record player seemed to malfunction and began playing the track in reverse, spewing out what sounded eerily similar to curse words. Again, I tried not to laugh, but I don't think I succeeded. By this point in the semester, he'd taken to wearing his "migraine hat" during each class. And then ... I don't know what happened. Outlines were written for "the Al Green paper," and he promised to return them to us with ample time to write drafts and hand in our papers before the winter break. And then, by the last week of class, he told us he would properly give us feedback during the reading period. The reading period became the winter holidays and ... we never heard from him again. We were awarded "A-"s across the board for our efforts.

He was one of the professors I look most fondly back at, now that I'm out of college. He was truly passionate about his work, though completely scatterbrained. He seemed to really want to share his love of literature and music, and his joie de vivre. And, a little love for Al Green.

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