Mabon “Teenie” Hodges, the guitarist and songwriter responsible for the Al Green hits “Here I Am (Come and Take Me),” “Take Me to the River” and “Love and Happiness” alongside a slew of tracks for influential soul label Hi Records, died at 68 from emphysema complications, according to Memphis newspaper the Commercial Appeal.
Though not a household name, Hodges’ sound helped shape and define Memphis soul. As a member of the Hi Rhythm band under the direction of Willie Mitchell, Hodges helped launch the careers of Syl Johnson, Otis Clay and Ann Peebles, crafting groove-filled, classic albums such as Peebles’ I Can’t Stand the Rain in 1974.
But it was Hodges’ work with Green that earned him the most renown. In the early Seventies, Green released a string of albums that have since become soul staples, including 1972’s Let’s Stay Together and I’m Still in Love With You, 1973’s Call Me and 1974’s Al Green Explores Your Mind. On Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, both “Take Me to the River” and “Love and Happiness” made the list at Nos. 117 and 98, respectively.
In a 1973 Rolling Stone feature, writer Robert Palmer discussed Hodges and his contribution to Green’s sound. “I think Al picked up a lot of his moves from Teenie,” a Hi Records session musician said. “His cousin was a session player for Motown, and he used to come down from Detroit and cop Teenie’s licks when Teenie was playing in roadhouses for 20 bucks a night.”
Added Green: “He doesn’t play a lot of music but what he plays is sophisticated. He’ll play a little guitar, just a taste, but it means so much ’cause he puts it in the right place.”
“Teenie created the groove, the pocket, as one would call it. That came from the way he played rhythmically,” musician and friend David Porter told the Commercial Appeal. “That groove was what made the records for Al Green and so many others such big hits. And that sound, that feel, it came totally from Teenie’s spirit. That’s what the world should know about this man: his heart is in all those records.”
His connection to modern music ran deeper than the countless Al Green samples used by hip-hip producers. After playing and touring through much of the Eighties and Nineties, Cat Power enlisted Hodges to perform with her Memphis Rhythm Band for 2005’s The Greatest. Hodges’ nephew is Drake, who featured the flamboyant musician in the video for 2013’s “Worst Behavior.”
Mabon ‘Teenie’ Hodges: A Portrait of a Memphis Soul Original, a documentary on the musician’s life, was released last year.