Remember that unforgettable, soulful ballad “When a Man Loves a Woman,” the timeless song that professed the power of eternal love? The man behind the soul, Percy Sledge, passed away on Tuesday morning at his residence in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Consequence of Sound confirms. He was 73.
Sledge will long remain among the world’s greatest R&B singers, with a career filled with numerous hits, including “Take Time to Know Her,” “It Tears Me Up” and “Warm and Tender Love.”
Sometimes referred to as the King of Slow Soul, the Alabama-born singer established his stance as one of the South’s very first soul legends. Prior to his rise to fame, Sledge held jobs picking cotton and working as a hospital orderly. His weekends included frequent performances at colleges and clubs on the weekend.
After a patient at the hospital introduced him to record producer Quin Ivy, his life was never the same. “When a Man Loves a Woman,” his first recording for Atlantic Records, quickly reached the No. 1 spot on the 1966 pop charts and sold over a million copies. It was the label’s first gold record. Sledge often referred to the song as a “miracle.”
Of the record, Sledge told USA TODAY, “You only come by it once in a lifetime. Same with Brooke Benton and Rainy Night in Georgia. Elvis never got another song like Love Me Tender or Sinatra with Strangers in the Night. … I think it (When a Man) has that staying power as long as people have love in their hearts and minds. That will be forever.”
In 2005, his accomplishments earned him an induction into the Rock Hall of Fame.
“I’ve been living a wonderful life, God gave it to me. I was never a rich man, but I’ve got food on the table, a happy marriage, kids in school. No bodyguards or nothing like that. … I always wanted to be a free guy. Get up and go fishing and hunting, breathing the air, playing pool. Just an everyday guy, you know?”
Sledge leaves behind his wife, Rosa Lee Sledge, and 12 children.