The Injury That Changed Al Green's Life

Al Green on 'Soul Train' in 1974
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Soul Train via Getty Images

At what was arguably the peak of Al Green's fame, a shocking chain of violence on Oct. 18, 1974, changed his career path considerably.

By that time, Green was one of the preeminent soul singers of his time, notching an impressive seven Top 10 singles starting with 1971's chart-topping "Let's Stay Together." His sweet falsetto and star presence was catnip to ladies, but his eye was mainly on Mary Woodson, a woman he'd met after a New York concert. The fact that she was a married mother bothered neither of them, but her overtures to get him to marry her remained unanswered.

After turning down another proposal of hers on the night of Oct. 18, Green went to prepare for bed. What happened next remains one of the most shocking incidents in soul music history: Woodson threw a pot of boiling grits at Green, giving him second degree burns on his back, arms and stomach. Tragically, she'd shoot herself hours later; a suicide note was found in her purse and another was later discovered to have been sent to Green's offices later on.

The incident changed Green's life considerably: in 1976, he founded the Full Gospel Tabernacle Church in Memphis. Green took a fall off stage during a 1979 concert as a sign that soul was not his ultimate destiny, and would devote himself to preaching and gospel music for nearly a decade. His reflections on the incident remain mixed; though he'd told Rolling Stone in 1974 that he knew Woodson was married, he recanted that in his memoirs.

"It was catastrophic to endure," Green told Vibe in 2004, "because I really loved her. I was mad at her...and felt violated for a long time. You came in and we had a good relationship and then you go and do what?"

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