Willie Mitchell, the record producer best known for his collaborations with Al Green, has died aged 81.

Mississippi-born Mitchell suffered a heart attack two weeks ago and died yesterday (January 5).

Mitchell produced songs for Green in the 1970s including ‘Let’s Stay Together’ and was a band leader in his own right. More recently he produced Green’s 2003 album ‘I Can’t Stop’ and worked on Rod Stewart’s album ‘Soulbook’, which was released last year.

Green paid tribute to Mitchell on his website, Algreenmusic.com, posting pictures of the pair together along with the message “Gone, but never, ever forgotten”.

Willie Mitchell
March 1, 1928 – January 5, 2010

Obituary By The Recording Academy – Blind Raccoon

We are deeply saddened by the passing of Willie Mitchell.

An accomplished trumpeter who led one of the region’s premier bands of the ’50s, he made the transition to recording star at Hi Records in the ’60s. At Hi he became a vital part of the organization by engineering, producing, scouting talent and eventually running the label. A true renaissance man, Willie Mitchell created his own Memphis sound – a uniquely sophisticated brand of funk.

He put together one of the world’s greatest rhythm sections – Hi Rhythm – featuring Teenie Hodges on guitar, Charles Hodges on organ, Leroy Hodges on bass and drummer Howard Grimes. He made stars of Ann Peebles, Otis Clay, O.V. Wright and Syl Johnson, creating recordings still revered, covered and sampled to this day.

In 1969 while on tour with his Willie Mitchell Band, he met a young singer from Michigan in Midland, Texas and brought him back to Memphis. Together, he and Al Green made history, creating an unparalleled body of work featuring arguably the greatest voice in soul backed by Mitchell’s unique mix of gritty southern R&B and elegant arrangements.

In 2007 he was recognized by the Memphis Chapter of The Recording Academy at The Recording Academy Honors. In 2008 he received an even larger honor from The Recording Academy at the 50th annual GRAMMY Awards – The Trustees Award.

His impact on Memphis and music is immeasurable. There will probably never be another one like him.

Please visit the Willie Mitchell Facebook page to pay your respects and post your memories and images.

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