Al Green and Willie Mitchell
Photo Credit: algreenmusic.com
Legendary music producer Willie Mitchell died Tuesday at the age of 81. According to his son, Lawrence Mitchell, Mr. Mitchell passed away at Methodist University Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee yesterday morning–more than two weeks after he suffered cardiac arrest on Dec. 19.
Mr. Mitchell’s distinctive production, which included his tight drum sound and string-and-horn-tinged R&B, was heard on songs by numerous artists such as Ike and Tina Turner and Ann Pebbles. But he is most known for his work with another native son of Memphis, Al Green. Mr. Mitchell signed Green to Hi Records when he owned the label in the 1970’s, and created a slew of timeless classics at Royal Studios, which he also owned. Those classics included “I’m Still in Love With You,” “Let’s Stay Together,” “Love and Happiness” and “Take Me To The River.”
Even in his later years, Mr. Mitchell stayed busy, working with industry staples such as John Mayer and Anthony Hamilton at his studio. He even reunited with Al Green in 2003 for the album, “I Can’t Stop,” their first album together since 1985. Their 2005 follow-up project was “Everything’s OK.” According to his son, Lawrence, Mr. Mitchell “was doing music all the way till he couldn’t.” He worked on Rod Stewart’s most recent album, “Soulbook,” as well as new material for Solomon Burke.
As a musician in his own right, Mr. Mitchell released nearly 20 albums over the course of his career. In his early days as a trumpet player, he and his band provided the melodic entertainment at several New Year’s Eve parties for Elvis Presley at his Graceland residence. A Memphis boulevard was named in Mr. Mitchell’s honor in 2004.
Besides his son, Mr. Mitchell is also survived by two daughters. Funeral arrangements are pending at this time.