Soul great Percy Sledge dies at age 74

We are sad to report the death of soul music legend Percy Sledge at age 74. The Southern Soul singer performed successfully for a half century, but will always be known for a signature song - an inspired, impassioned rendition of "When A Man Loves A Woman" - that stands as one of the all-time great love songs.

The Alabama born Sledge had a relatively brief period of intense popularity in the late 60s, fueled in large part by his "When a Man Loves a Woman."  There are rare moments when singer and song are perfectly matched, and never was the pairing more perfect than this. The plaintive song, about the lengths to which a man will go when he is enraptured by a lady, was ideal for Sledge's unusual, unrestrained Southern Gospel voice, and it has become undoubtedly one of the all-time great soul performances, remade dozens of times by others, but with the magic of Sledge's original never being recaptured by any other artist.

We are sad to report the death of soul music legend Percy Sledge at age 74. The Southern Soul singer performed successfully for a half century, but will always be known for a signature song - an inspired, impassioned rendition of "When A Man Loves A Woman" - that stands as one of the all-time great love songs.

The Alabama born Sledge had a relatively brief period of intense popularity in the late 60s, fueled in large part by his "When a Man Loves a Woman."  There are rare moments when singer and song are perfectly matched, and never was the pairing more perfect than this. The plaintive song, about the lengths to which a man will go when he is enraptured by a lady, was ideal for Sledge's unusual, unrestrained Southern Gospel voice, and it has become undoubtedly one of the all-time great soul performances, remade dozens of times by others, but with the magic of Sledge's original never being recaptured by any other artist.

A member of the Esquire Combos in the early 60s, Sledge went solo in 1965 and recorded "When A Man Loves A Woman" with producer Quin Ivy.  The song led to a signing by Atlantic Records in 1966, and also began a short string of hits over the next couple of years, including "It Tears Me Up," "Warm and Tender Love" and "Take Time To Know Her," all of which reached the Soul Top 10.  By 1970, Sledge's chart career had stalled, and he didn't record again for another four years, when he signed with Capricorn Records and released "I'll Be Your Everything," his last hit. 

Sledge became a fixture on the oldies circuit for the next two decades before releasing the critically acclaimed Blue Night in 1994 with producers Saul Davis and Barry Goldberg.  He then returned to his constant touring schedule, coming back to release the excellent Shining Through the Rain a decade later, and still sounding uniquely great. Sledge was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005 and continued performing internationally through the remainder of the decade. 

Percy Sledge was a one-of-a-kind singer, whose career highlight will remain an equally bright highlight of the Golden Era of Soul Music.  And for that and more, he will continue to be celebrated. Godspeed, Percy Sledge.

by Chris Rizik

 
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