Singer and minister Albert Leornes “Al Green” Greene’s story is one that reads like a hit Hollywood movie or best-selling turn-paging novel.
He gained international fame as being one of the best soul singers of all time with hits like “I’m Still in Love with You”, “Love and Happiness” and his signature song, “Let’s Stay Together”.
Green’s 1972 album, Let’s Stay Together (January 1972), solidified his place in soul music. The title track was his biggest hit to date, reaching number one on both the Billboard Hot 100 and R&B charts.
Green was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995. He was referred to on the museum’s site as being “one of the most gifted purveyors of soul music”. He has also been referred to as “The Last of the Great Soul Singers”. Green is the winner of 11 Grammy Awards, including the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. He has also received the BMI Icon Award and is a Kennedy Center Honors recipient. He was included in the Rolling Stone list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time, ranking at No. 65, as well as its list of the 100 Greatest Singers, at No. 14.
While most fans know about his songs and accolades, the story that many know began with a pot of grits, ended with two gunshots, and helped push one of the greatest soul singers of the early ’70s away from the music that had made him a star.
On Oct. 18, 1974, for reasons that still remain unclear, Green’s girlfriend, Mary Woodson, then 29, burst in on the singer as he prepared to take a shower in his Memphis home. Heaving scolding hot grits at his back, Woodson burned the singer so badly he would spend several months in the hospital. Woodson then fled to a bedroom, where she shot and killed herself with the singer’s registered .38-caliber pistol.
Green looks back at that experience as a moment in his life that had to happen and one that he learned from.
“The woman had water or something in this pot,” explained Green. “I said, ‘Mary, you gonna heat water or something?’ She said, ‘I would never hurt you. I love you.’ I said, ‘Hurt me?! I just wrote a song for you!’ That’s the furthest thing from my mind. I go back downstairs, I disrobe, I’m washing my face, and I feel this excruciating pain, and water or something flies all over the place. I get in the shower, cold water, and I’m screaming, and the next thing I hear is a shot fired and someone hit the floor.”
“I loved her. I thought we could be together forever. She didn’t mean it. I didn’t know she had a problem. Suicide is not an answer, it’s destruction.”
After the ordeal, something happened to Green.
“I woke up about 4:30 in the morning. Something was…