Singer Al Green tosses fresh-cut roses to ladies in the audience during the opening number of a December 2006 performance at Nokia Theatre at Grand Prairie.

Singer Al Green tosses fresh-cut roses to ladies in the audience during the opening number of a December 2006 performance at Nokia Theatre at Grand Prairie.

2006 File Photo/Tom Fox
It makes no difference if you're a man or a woman, straight or gay. When Al Green is on the phone, crooning into your ear, it's impossible not to swoon.

On the line to promote his April 26 show at Toyota Music Factory in Irving, the soul legend broke into song a half-dozen times and offered up snippets of his early '70s classics like "Let's Stay Together" and "Tired of Being Alone." Sometimes he sang to illustrate a point. Other times, there was no point - except that he's Al Green and he felt like singing.

And who's going to complain? Still sounding sweet and exuberant at age 72, Green recently launched his first tour in more than six years. These days, he spends the bulk of time at home in Memphis, singing most Sundays at Full Gospel Tabernacle, the church where he's been pastor since he retreated from the secular music biz in the mid-'70s.

The Rev. Al Green

The Rev. Al Green

File/Clay Patrick McBride

In between our swooning, we talked to Green about sex, drugs and his long career as one of R&B's greatest singer-songwriters. Here are highlights from the interview.

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As a teen, he got booted from of his Grand Rapids, Mich., home by his religious dad for listening to R&B singer Jackie Wilson. Later, his producer forced him to stop mimicking Wilson.

"Me getting kicked out of the house made me grow up and go out and find something: I walked through the alley to my friend's house and we formed a group. After I had my first hit song, [producer] Willie Mitchell said, 'You have a nice voice, man, but you've got to break up from singing like Jackie Wilson and Sam Cooke and find your own style.' But I didn't know what that style was. Willie drilled me and drilled me for a year and I got tired of it, and I went home and pouted. But I called up him up one night at 11:30 and said 'I'm ready' and I went into the studio and just sang with no effort at all. Willie said, 'Now that's Al Green, right there.' "

Early in his career, he opened shows for Aretha Franklin, who canned him for trying to upstage her.

"Ms. Franklin saw my show and saw me walking into the audience where the girls were screaming and having a fit. She told her guy to tell me, 'Don't walk out in the audience no more,' and I said, 'OK.' But it was so second nature to me that when the next show came around, I took the mike and headed off into the audience and, well, I got fired."

He doesn't think you need to be black to sing soul music.

"Soul music doesn't come from one section of people. There are a lot of Caucasians who sing very, very soulful music. You can be a country and western artist singing soul music, if it comes from the heart. Any music that comes from the soul is soul music."

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He's tried hard to keep his mind straight and his ego in check.

"I didn't want to follow in the footsteps of a lot of my friends. Everybody was doing cocaine and everything in the '80s, and I was scared of it. It made me nervous. My heart was beating fast and I said, 'No, I don't want none.' I wanted to survive. I can be hyper onstage, but when I come off that stage, I want to go home and be with my family. I can't be hyper and 'up' all the time."

The "Prince of Love" is single.

"I wrote a song in Detroit, Mich., called 'Tired of Being Alone,' and do you know I'm still alone today? I never knew that song would be so relevant in my life. I thought it would be a passing thing, but all these years later, I'm still alone."

He's proud that his songs have provided the soundtrack to thousands of conceptions.

"I think that's wonderful. Kids are a blessing. I'm just glad I don't have to pay the support for all of those kids."

Al Green and opening act The War & Treaty perform at 8 p.m. Friday, April 26, at Toyota Music Factory, 316 W. Las Colinas Blvd., Irving. $25 to $149.50.

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