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The Rev. Al Green stands as one of the greatest soul singers of his generation, although there was a moment he nearly walked away from it all. Today is the Arkansas native’s birthday and we look back at his life.

Albert Leornes Greene was born in 1946, living a part of his young life in Grand Rapids, Michigan. As a boy, he sang in a group with his siblings called The Greene Brothers, focusing on gospel. However, Green was a fan of secular music, listening to Elvis Presley and others and enduring the wrath of his religious father for doing so.

In high school, he embarked on a career in music and was inspired partly by Jackie Wilson, Sam Cooke and other male vocalists. In 1967, Green made a mild splash with his debut album Back Up Train but found greater success in the early ’70’s with the albums “Let’s Stay Together” and “I’m Still In Love With You” with the latter becoming his biggest seller by going platinum.

Troubles struck the popular crooner in 1974 when his girlfriend, Mary Woodson White, became enraged that the singer wouldn’t marry her, although she was already married herself. She threw a pot of hot grits on Green as he was bathing, and she then found his pistol and committed suicide. The incident caused Green to return to his roots, rediscover his faith, and become ordained as a minister at the Full Gospel Tabernacle Church in Memphis, Tennessee.

From 1980 onto the mid-nineties, Green focused primarily on gospel but eventually returned to secular music although he still remained connected with the church. His last studio album, Lay It Down was released in 2008 and he continues to preach to this day while staying largely out of the limelight.

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