The music world lost a legend today now that R&B and soul singer Percy Sledge has died. Sledge is best known for his first and biggest hit, “When A Man Loves A Woman,” which made him an internationally recognized star.
Sledge was born November 25, 1940 in Leighton, Alabama. As a youngster, Sledge worked in the cotton fields and other areas of agriculture in the state. In past interviews, Sledge said he often sang songs or hummed to himself to pass the day. It paid off when he took a job in Sheffield, Alabama as a hospital orderly. After administering care during the day, Sledge sang night gigs with a local group, The Esquire Combo.
Sledge’s luck changed in February 1966 when he cut the “When A Man Loves A Woman” single. Atlantic Records signed him as a solo singer and released the track. It shot to number one on the charts in May of that year. The soul-stirring love song was based on a tune that Sledge said he sang while working in the fields. The song was first called “Why Did You Leave Me Baby” and was inspired by the loss of a former girlfriend.
“When a Man Loves A Woman” has been covered several times over the years and used in various forms of media. In 1991, Michael Bolton covered the song an it went to #1 again. Amazingly, Sledge never saw one penny of the royalties. In a show of good faith, he gave songwriting credit to the Esquire Combo members who helped him with a few chords. While that most certainly hurt Sledge financially, he refused to be bitter about the choice he made.
Some of Sledge’s other hits include, “Warm And Tender Love,” “It Tears Me Up,” and “Take Time To Know Her” among others. Love songs were his staple, and his distinct vocal style complimented them.
Sledge was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2005.
According to reports, Sledge was battling cancer for some time.
Sledge was 73.