Greenwood was born in Prichard, Alabama, where her father was a Baptist minister, and attended Alabama State College. In 1948, when her husband was in the military, she gave up her teaching career and moved to San Francisco. She sang at the Purple Onion club, and between 1950 and 1953 sang with Roy Milton and his Solid Senders. She also recorded under her own name for the Modern and Federal labels.
In 1956, she was recruited by Duke Ellington to sing as a soloist with his orchestra, and recorded and toured extensively with Ellington over the next six years. After leaving Ellington, she recorded singles for a number of small record labels. In the 1970s, she guest starred in the television series Good Times and The Jeffersons. Greenwood recorded the CD “Back to My Roots” with David Amram in 2007.
- Eagle, Bob; LeBlanc, Eric S. (2013). Blues - A Regional Experience. Santa Barbara: Praeger Publishers. p. 319. ISBN 978-0313344237.
- "R.I.P. Lil Greenwood (1923-2011)", ModMobilian.com, July 19, 2011. Retrieved 7 November 2016
- Ace Records biography Archived 2011-10-15 at the Wayback Machine.
- Richie Unterberger, Biography, AllMusic.com
- Terence McArdle (July 25, 2011). "Lil Greenwood dies; singer toured with Duke Ellington". The Washington Post.
- Find-a-Grave "Lil Greenwood"