Soul Singer Percy Sledge, who sang ‘When A Man Loves a Woman,’ Dies
R&B legend Percy Sledge, famous for his hit “When a Man Loves a Woman,” died at home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana Tuesday morning (April 14) after a long battle with cancer. He was 73.
Dr. William Clark, coroner for East Baton Rouge Parish, confirmed to The Associated Press that Sledge died early Tuesday morning, about an hour after midnight of natural causes in hospice care.
Sledge was born in Leighton, Ala., and worked in a hospital as an orderly in 1965 when he started singing at local clubs with a group dubbed the Esquires.
A patient at the hospital heard him singing while working and recommended him to record producer Quin Ivy.
Percy took his signature song to #1 in 1966. It was his debut single and went on to become an international hit. It was re-released in the U.K. in 1987 and still made it to #2 on the charts.
According to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Sledge said that the track was a combination of tunes that he had been humming to himself for years.
“When a Man Loves a Woman” was a personal triumph for Sledge, who seemed on the verge of sobbing throughout the production, and a breakthrough for Southern soul.
It was the first No. 1 hit from Alabama’s burgeoning Muscle Shoals music scene, where Aretha Franklin and the Rolling Stones among others would record, and the first gold record for Atlantic Records.
Michael Bolton’s cover version also hit #1 in 1991. The song was also one of Hollywood’s favorite tunes; appearing on the soundtracks of well over 20 movies.
Atlantic Records executive Jerry Wexler later called the song “a transcendent moment” and “a holy love hymn.” Sledge’s hit became a standard that sustained his long touring career in the U.S., Europe and South Africa, when he averaged 100 performances a year, and led to his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005.
Sledge sang multiple hits over the years, in addition to “When a Man Loves a Woman,” including “Warm and Tender Love,” “It Tears Me Up,” and “Take Time to Know Her.”
While identified with the Muscle Shoals music scene, Sledge spent most of his career living in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He was inducted in the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in 1993 and the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in 2007.
In April 1994, Sledge pleaded guilty in federal court to tax evasion involving income from concerts in the late 1980s. He was sentenced to six months in a halfway house, given five years of probation, and ordered to pay $96,000 in back taxes and fines. When he pleaded guilty, he told the judge, “I knew I owed more.”
Sledge had surgery for liver cancer in January 2014 but soon resumed touring.
Thursday (April 16) will mark the 49th anniversary of the release of “When a Man Loves a Woman” as a single.
Sledge is survived by his wife and children. Funeral arrangements are pending.