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 (groupie) 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 the mentally disturbed 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 the twice-married Mrs. Mary Woodson.
According to her running buddy and longtime friend, Nora Drewery, Woodson liked to use her sex appeal to attract famous musicians. Drewery says “We’d go into Newark to the Continental Ballroom whenever there were stars in town. We would make sure we were visible so the entertainers would notice us. People like James Brown.” Drewery wasn’t as aggressive as her good friend Woodson. “Sometimes she would duck me and go on with the band,” Drewery laughs.
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 a lot 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.''
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