Al Green - Strong As Death (Sweet As Love) (Hi 2288)
Strong As Death (Sweet As Love)
Willie Mitchell was, in so many ways, the Soul of Memphis. In a city that seems to thrive on rebuilding something to their own specifications once they have succeeded in destroying it, Poppa Willie remained the beating heart of all that was honest and real in that town.
When he opened the door to me at 1320 Willie Mitchell Boulevard, it literally changed my life. Here was the truth I had been searching for. Here in that funky and timeworn place Soul music had survived, watched over by the man who, more than any other single individual I can think of, had created it. As I've said in the past, he was indeed the 'Duke Ellington of Soul', and without his profound influence the music simply would not exist as we know it today.
I am honored to have sat there in that front office and listened as Pop told it like it is, dismissing any talk of 'legend' with a wave of his hand. I was privileged to have been part of the campaign to get Willie the Grammy Trustees Award he so richly deserved in 2008, and treasured the opportunity I had to work with him as we put together the O.V. Wright Memorial benefit for later on that year.
When Bob Wilson booked the studio to record Sir Lattimore Brown that summer, it was like a dream come true. To have been a part of that historic session, and witness the reunion of these two men who had worked together both at Stax and American over forty years ago was something I will never forget.
Spending several days there afforded me the chance to meet Willie's family, and see the love and respect they showed him as they took care of the man who had taken care of them for so long. With the constant parade of grandchildren and great grandchildren that seemed to swirl around him, you could see how much they meant to each other.
He answered the phone at the studio last August, just before his hip replacement surgery. We talked for a while, and I tried to somehow tell him how great I thought he was. As usual, he didn't want to hear it, turning the conversation around to the O.V. Wright benefit. "I like what you do," he told me.
This past October, I visited with Willie at his grandson Archie's apartment in Memphis. As I stood there looking down at him in his hospital bed, I knew it would be the last time I'd ever see him.
I went outside and I wept.
Funeral Services for Willie Mitchell:
Wake - Monday, January 11th from 2-7pm
N.J. Ford and Sons Funeral Home
12 South Parkway West
Memphis, TN 38109
Private Mass of Christian Burial - Tuesday, January 12th
Memorial Tribute - Wednesday, January 13th 2pm
Hope Presbyterian Church
8500 Walnut Grove Rd, Cordova, TN 38018
Performers to include Solomon Burke, Otis Clay, Ann Peebles, J. Blackfoot, Shirley Brown and many more.
In lieu of flowers, the Mitchell family requested donations be sent to the non-profit Willie Mitchell Foundation and Scholarship Fund c/o
1320 Willie Mitchell Blvd
Memphis, TN 38106