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Legendary producer Willie Mitchell dies at age 81

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Producer, musician, songwriter, trumpeter, and record label chief Willie Mitchell passed away this morning in Memphis at the age of 81. Mitchell was best known for being one of the principal architects of the so-called “Memphis sound,” and for his collaborations with soul legend Al Green.

Mitchell was born in Ashland, Miss., and in the ’50s and ’60s had a successful career as a soul band leader. In 1970 he took charge of the Memphis-based Hi Records label and signed Al Green.

For the next six years Mitchell produced a string of hits for the singer including “Let’s Stay Together,” “Tired of Being Alone,” and “I’m Still In Love With You.” He also oversaw albums for Ann Peebles and Syl Johnson and, more recently, collaborated with John Mayer.

Mitchell was a tireless booster of Memphis musicians. “The players here can do anything,” he declared in 2007. “I don’t give a damn if it’s opera or R&B, pop or country. They do it all.” Hear Green work his Mitchell-helmed magic on a true classic, below:

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Photo credit: GAB Archive/Redferns/Getty Images

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