October 18

This Day in History

Music

Oct 18, 1974:

Soul singer Al Green is attacked in his own bathtub

There can be no question that anyone would have been shaken by the events that transpired in the Memphis, Tennessee, home of singer Al Green in the early morning hours of October 18, 1974, when an ex-girlfriend burst in on him in the bath and poured a pot of scalding-hot grits on his back before retreating to a bedroom and shooting herself dead with Green's own gun. Not everyone, however, would have processed the meaning of the incident quite the way that Green did. Believing that he had strayed from the righteous musical and spiritual course intended for him, Al Green had become a born-again Christian one year earlier. But after the attack by Mary Woodson on this day in 1974, he began a process that would eventually lead him to renounce pop superstardom and all that it stood for.

Al Green, widely renowned as one of the greatest voices in soul-music history, was at the absolute height of his powers in 1974. He had seven critically and commercially successful major-label albums behind him that included such timeless hits as "Tired Of Being Alone" (1971), "Let's Stay Together" (1971) and "I'm Still In Love With You" (1972). He also, in the words of Davin Seay, who collaborated with Green on his 2000 autobiography, Take Me To The River, had a "basic animal appeal to women" that attracted many admirers, including Mary Woodson.

Mary Woodson first made Green's acquaintance after leaving her husband and children behind in New Jersey and attending one of his concerts in upstate New York. On the night of the attack, Woodson had shown up unexpectedly at Green's Memphis home after he returned from a concert appearance in San Francisco. What exactly prompted her to act is unclear, but her actions not only left Al Green with severe burns that would require months of hospitalization, they also left him severely shaken emotionally and spiritually. "He likes to distance the facts of his [religious] conversion from the terrible events of that night," says Seay, "but I think the Woodson incident kind of crystallized his need to move on, to sort of shut down one part of his life and open up another.''

By 1976, Al Green had become an ordained Baptist minister and purchased a Memphis church where he still preaches today. He also renounced secular R&B for a time, recording gospel music almost exclusively through the late 1970s and early 1980s before embracing his past and reviving his earlier repertoire again in the late 1980s.

Fact Check We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, contact us!

Related Topics

What Happened on Your Birthday?

Pick a Date