by Sean Smith
The music industry lost another iconic voice this week with the passing of R&B legend Percy Sledge. Sledge will forever be remembered as the soulful voice behind the classic song “When a Man Loves a Woman”. He was 74 years old.
Percy Sledge was born on November 25, 1940 in rural northern Alabama. Growing up he worked various agricultural jobs before eventually landing work as an orderly in a hospital. While working at the hospital, Sledge was also performing as the lead singer in a group called the Esquire Combo. It was during this time that a former patient at the hospital introduced Sledge to a record producer by the name of Quin Ivy. It wasn’t long after, that Sledge signed with Atlantic Records and topped the charts with “When a Man Loves a Woman”.
But he has a number of other great songs in his discography as well. After all, he was a 2005 inductee into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. In 1966, the same year he released “When a Man Loves a Woman”, he also gave us “It Tears Me Up” as well as “Warm and Tender Love”. Two years later in 1968 he released my personal favorite song of his, “Take Time to Know Her”, which was the second highest charting hit of his career reaching #11 on the Billboard Hot 100. But as great as some of these other songs are, Sledge will forever be remembered for “When a Man Loves a Woman”.
In February 1966 Percy Sledge recorded “When a Man Loves a Woman” as his first song for Atlantic Records. That song would not only go on to top both the Billboard Hot 100 and R&B charts, but it also became the first ever gold certified record for Atlantic Records. (The RIAA started certifying records “gold” in 1958 for selling one million units. Today, records are certified “gold” after selling 500,000 units.) There are varying accounts as to who played the largest part in penning the soulful standard. Officially, the writing credits belong to Calvin Lewis and Andrew Wright, two men who played with Percy Sledge in the Esquire Combo. Percy Sledge is not officially listed as a co-writer for the song and therefore never received any royalties for the song over the years. However, he did claim to have written the song out of a personal experience of losing a girlfriend. He claimed that Lewis and Wright helped arrange the song and so he gave them the writing credit. In an interview with Blues and Soul magazine Percy Sledge would later call the decision to give the writing credit to that song away as “the worst decision I ever made”. But he also said that he was not bitter about it. Noting however, that if he could go back he would take the writing credit on the song for the sake of his children.
So with this week’s edition of #tbt here on Clizbeats.com, we take a moment to remember and celebrate the life and musical career of the legendary Percy Sledge.
“When A Man Loves A Woman”
From When A Man Loves A Woman
“It Tears Me Up”
From Warm And Tender Soul
“Warm And Tender Love”
From Warm And Tender Soul
From Take Time To Know Her