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BILL VAUGHAN’S TASTY CLIPS: ‘Gospel According to Al Green’ portrays singer’s transition

A galvanizing piece of filmmaking capturing one of R&B’s iconic stars is now available with the release of “Gospel According To Al Green” on Blu-ray and DVD by MVD. Filmed between 1983 and 1984 by director Robert Mugge, who previous helmed the Gil Scott-Heron documentary “Black Wax,” we witness the transition of Green during the period he rejected soul music to become a Memphis-based preacher and gospel singer.

Among the gems shot, is the seventh anniversary celebration of Green’s Full Gospel Tabernacle. The Sunday afternoon would feature not only Green’s usual church choir and musicians, but also a second choir from Ellington, South Carolina and most of Green’s touring musicians and backup singers.

It is the first (and reportedly still the only) Al Green church service to be committed to film.

While in Memphis, the crew went on to film an interview with legendary Hi Records producer Willie Mitchell who had produced and co-written Green’s commercial hits of the 1970s, a studio rehearsal featuring Green and his musicians, and finally, a long interview with Green himself.

In Green’s interview, he explored his early days in the music business, his creation of such popular hits as “Tired of Being Alone” and “I Can’t Get Next to You,” the traumatic events that led him to abandon his successful soul and pop career, the purchase of the Memphis church building which he transformed into a church of his own, and the ways in which his soul and gospel backgrounds had each informed the other.

Perhaps the most emotional disclosure was Green’s discussion of the incident wherein a spurned girlfriend assaulted him in the shower with a pot of boiling hot grits, then ran to another room of his house where she shot and killed herself.

The interview, conducted two days after his church service, was the first occasion on which he discussed this experience publicly, and he included facts that even his own band members had never heard.

Months later, Mugge also filmed Green and his band in concert at the Non-commissioned Officers Club of Bolling Air Force Base in Washington, D.C. It should be noted that, at that point in Green’s career, he had embraced the Southern fundamentalist notion that blues, rhythm ‘n’ blues, and rock ‘n’ roll were “music of the devil,” and that, therefore, he should now perform only gospel music.

However, among the numbers Green performed at that concert was Curtis Mayfield‘s “People Get Ready.” In addition, during the staged rehearsal in Memphis, Green agreed to perform “Let’s Stay Together,” which had been one of his biggest commercial successes.

The 96-minute film has undertaken a 4K remastering with a new 17-minute “making of” video among the bonuses.

As to Rev. Green — now Bishop Green — this past December, he and his congregation celebrated the 40th anniversary of his Full Gospel Tabernacle church.

TASTY QUIP: “When you say ‘black music,’ understand that you are talking about rock, jazz, R&B, reggae, funk, doo-wop, hip-hop and Motown. Black people created it all. Being Puerto Rican, even salsa music stems back to the Motherland. So, in my world, black music means everything. It’s what gives America its swag.” – BRUNO MARS to Rolling Stone

CLIPPETTES: Tickets for Jay Z’s 4:44 Tour, with its final stop at the Forum on Dec. 21, go on sale to the general public starting July 14 at livenation.com

Also that date, Chic, featuring Nile Rodgers, play their hits at the Wiltern; the I Love The 90s Tour continues with TLC, Montell Jordan, Kid N Play and Tone Loc at the Greek; and the three-day Los Angeles Soul Music Festival begins at Exposition Park with Tyrese, Anthony Hamilton, K. Michelle, Blackstreet, Kindred the Family Soul, Tony! Toni! Tone! and others

The next film from Barry Jenkins, director of the Oscar-winning best picture “Moonlight,” will be an adaptation of James Baldwin’s “If Beale Street Could Talk”

Savion Glover kicks off the Ford Theatres’ summer season on July 15; while the free Sound in Focus series returns to the Annenberg Space For Photography with Miguel, Gabriel Garzon-Montano and DJ Stretch Armstrong. RSVP at KCRW.com

The Hollywood Bowl hosts “Ella and Dizzy: 100 Years, 1,000 Memories” on July 19 with an all-star contingent including Andra Day, Lizz Wright, Regina Carter, Jon Faddis and Leslie Odom Jr. with the orchestra led by conductor Vince Mendoza.

INFREQUENT FLIER: “The Skyjacker’s Tale,” a documentary on Ishmael Muslim Ali (formerly LaBeet), the American convicted of murdering eight people on a Rockefeller-owned golf course in the U.S. Virgin Islands, opens this weekend at Laemmle’s Monica Film Center.

After years of trying to get his conviction overturned, he incredulously hijacked a plane to Cuba on New Year’s Eve 1984, landing him on the FBI’s most wanted list.

The film, which features LaBeet/Ali’s first on camera interview since, re-examines his original trial and reveals a gross miscarriage of justice. Stick through the credits to find out how he pulled it all off.

TC ON TV: July 15 – “Autopsy: The Last Hours of …” (Reelz): Bruce Lee

July 16 – “Close Up with The Hollywood Reporter” (Sundance): Oprah Winfrey, Nicole Kidman, Jessica Lange talk gender equality in movies. “Celebrity Family Feud” (ABC): Neil DeGrasse Tyson vs. Rick Fox. “Game of Thrones” (HBO): Returning for a seven-episode seventh season. “The Strain” (FX): For its fourth and final season, the story resumes nine months later with The Master in control. “The History of Comedy” (CNN): An exploration of the evolution of racial humor.

July 17 – “POV” (PBS): “Presenting Princess Shaw,” last year’s breakout documentary hit about a young nursing home worker who finds YouTube success through her voice. “Fat Camp” (BET): The comedy, straight from LAFF, makes its broadcast debut. “Ed Gordon: That’s Entertainment” (Bounce): The stars of “Girls Trip,” Michael Strahan, Omari Hardwick and D.L. Hughley.

July 18 – “Tales” (BET): Notorious B.I.G.’s “I Got A Story To Tell.” “The Challenge XXX: Dirty 30” (MTV): The series’ most unpredictable players travel to South America for their most intense competition with a record $1 million at stake. “Being Mary Jane” (BET): Michael Ealy’s got next.

July 19 – “Hood Adjacent” (Comedy): James Davis skews “Black Twitter.”

July 20 – “Growing Up Hip Hop” (WE): The heirs of Master P, Rev. Run, James DeBarge, Damon Dash, Pepa and Mary J. Blige find that those are big shoes to fill. “Akil The Fugitive Hunter” (A&E): Narrated by Wood Harris (“The Wire”), this live-action docu-series features animation from Carl Jones (“Black Dynamite”), with Ty Dolla $ign providing original music.

TASTY QUIP: “When you look into the eyes of children in need, wherever they may be, a human being wants to do anything and everything they can to help, and on my first visit to Malawi, I made a commitment that I would do just that.” – MADONNA on the opening of the country’s first of its kind Mercy James Institute for Pediatric Surgery and Intensive Care (named after her daughter).


As featured in the Los Angeles Wave and Independent, Tasty Clips is one of the leading entertainment newspaper columns on the West Coast, serving nearly one million weekly readers. To reach Bill Vaughan, send email to tastyclips@yahoo.com or via Twitter @tastyclips.