When you think soul music, Al Green is one of the first who comes to mind. Today (April 13), one of the genre's greatest singers and hitmakers turns 69.

There's something intangible in Green's voice that instantly touches the listener, whether it's rumbling with sensuality or soothing with falsetto. His backing band was essential in setting the atmosphere, but it's his voice that makes him a standard in black music. "Tired of Being Alone," "Let's Stay Together" and "I'm Still in Love With You" are all instantly recognizable classics.

Yet, Green renounced popular music thanks, in part, to a tragic incident in 1974. In October of that year, Green's girlfriend Mary Woodson White committed suicide with his gun after severely burning him with a pan of boiling grits as he was bathing. The ordeal inspired Green to return to the church (he's also known as the Reverend Al Green) and released a series of gospel albums through the '80s. This isn't his most revered period, but he took home eight Grammys for Best Soul Gospel Performance during this era. He would win a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002.

Green eventually made his return to secular music in the late '80s. While he lost his '70s luster, the soul king managed to get one more Top 10 hit with Annie Lennox in "Put a Little Love in Your Heart." The crooner also had another Top 10 album with Lay It Down (2008). The album had "Stay With Me (By the Sea)" featuring John Legend, which won a Grammy award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group

Without those late career successes, Green still would've been an R&B legend. He still lives on in many bedroom playlists and countless artists' sampling history.

Watch Al Green Perform "Let's Stay Together"

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