Getty Images Ray Manzarek of the legendary rock band The Doors has died at the age…
- Posted on Feb 22nd 2008 5:00PM by James Sullivan
Al Green learned this bit of folk wisdom the hard way. He was soul music's biggest star in the early 1970s, releasing six straight No. 1 R&B albums and scoring a dozen Top Forty singles, when an absurdly violent act involving the nondescript breakfast porridge presumably made him the biggest fan of cold cereal this side of Jerry Seinfeld.
His breakthrough hit, 'Tired of Being Alone,' was a bit misleading: This was one pop star who did not want for companionship in the morning. On euphoric love songs like 'Let's Stay Together' and 'You Oughta Be with Me,' Green made the art of seduction seem positively heavenly. When he asked 'How Can You Mend a Broken Heart,' he did it with a sly dog's raised eyebrow, knowing there were a hundred women at each show who had an answer for him.
But it was one woman in whom he apparently had no particular romantic interest who would really get him hot and bothered. Mary Woodson was a married mother of three who befriended the singer at the height of his fame, predicting for him a sanctified life in the pulpit. Green, born in Arkansas and raised in Michigan, had grown up in the church, touring with his brothers in a family gospel group. But the music of Jackie Wilson, Sam Cooke and Wilson Pickett had pulled the young singer away.
At the height of his success, he had an epiphany. At 4:30 one morning, after a late-night show at Disneyland, "I had this input, like a charge of electricity," he would recall. He locked himself in the bathroom, shouting hallelujahs while covering his mouth, so his girlfriend wouldn't think he'd gone nuts.
Though he started attending church, he moved ahead with his career, hitting the Top Ten with 'Call Me (Come Back Home)' and 'Here I Am (Come and Take Me).' One night in October 1974, Mary Woodson let herself into Green's house while the singer was getting in or out of a bath or shower; the specifics have been understandably hard to pin down. Evidently feeling jilted, she doused him with a scalding hot pan of grits, causing third-degree burns on his back, stomach and arms. Then she went and found his .38 and killed herself.
"The more I trust you," read the note police found in her purse, "the more you let me down."
Not surprisingly, it took a while for the singer to find peace. Ordained as the Rev. Al Green in 1976, he didn't completely denounce pop music until an onstage injury in 1979, which he took as another message from God. Though he has presided over the Full Gospel Tabernacle Church in Memphis ever since, Al Green has made periodic comebacks, most recently working in the studio with ?uestlove of the Roots.
Before her suicide, Mary Woodson asked Green to save her a seat in his church when he started ministering. They say he still saves that seat.
No word on what he has for breakfast.