When Percy Sledge finished singing “When a Man Loves a Woman” in a recording studio in 1965 in his first recording session – he had a hit.
Sledge, who died Tuesday, grew up singing in the cotton fields of Alabama and had never before been in a recording studio and didn’t even know how to work a microphone.
Regardless, the song became a No. 1 hit in 1966 and established Sledge as a rhythm-and-blues singer for all time – a classic historic talent.
Sledge helped his native Alabama establish itself as a recording Mecca that drew Aretha Franklin, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, the Allman Brothers, Bob Seger and other top-shelf stars of the 1960s and ’70s in search of the “Muscle Shoals Sound” rooted, of course, on Sledge.
David Hood, a now 71-year-old bass player was another of the legendary musicians from Muscle Shoals, once said he owed his career to Sledge and described him as the “nicest person you’d ever want to meet.”
Hood — the father of Drive-By Truckers front man Patterson Hood — played with Sledge for years and last saw him in the fall, when friends threw a benefit show for Sledge after learning he had been diagnosed with liver disease. “He was very sick, very weak, but he did come up on stage and sing “When a Man Loves a Woman,” Hood told Yahoo News.
Sledge was 74 when he died in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
His family in a statement released through his manager, Mark Lyman, said that Sledge died at his home after a yearlong struggle with cancer. The cause of death was liver failure, Lyman said.
Despite having other hits Sledge became known for “When a Man Loves a Woman.” It was the first No. 1 hit from Muscle Shoals, and the first gold record for Atlantic Records.
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 United States, Europe and South Africa and led to his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005. It was a favourite at weddings — Sledge himself did the honours at a ceremony for musician and actor Steve Van Zandt — and often turned up in movies, including “The Big Chill,” ”The Crying Game” and a 1994 Meg Ryan drama named for the song’s title.
“When a Man Loves a Woman” is a song recorded by Percy Sledge in 1966 at Norala Sound Studio in Sheffield, Alabama. It made number one on both the Billboard Hot 100 and R&B singles charts. It was listed 54th of Rolling Stone magazine’s 500 greatest songs of all time.