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Remembring Percy Tyrone Sledge: Biography, Family, Songs, and Death

Percy Tyrone Sledge

 

Percy Tyrone Sledge was a gospel and R&B singer best known for his 1966 single “When a Man Loves a Woman.” Sledge was born in Leighton, Alabama, on November 25, 1940, to Fannie Sledge Woods and an unnamed father. Sledge worked in several agricultural jobs in the fields of Leighton, Alabama as a child before becoming an orderly at Colbert County Hospital in Sheffield, Alabama. During the mid-1960s, he spent his weekends touring the South with the Esquires Combo while working at the hospital during the week.

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A former hospital patient who had become a friend of Sledge introduced him to Quin Ivy, a record producer who signed him to a recording contract after an audition. In March 1966, Sledge released his first single, “When a Man Loves a Woman.” The song was inspired after his girlfriend left him to pursue a modeling career after he was laid off from a construction job in 1965. Sledge was assisted in writing the song by bassist Calvin Lewis and organist Andrew Wright, which went to number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and R&B charts in the United States and became an international hit. It was Sledge’s only million-selling single.

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Sledge later released two more singles in 1966, “Warm and Tender Love” and “It Tears Me Up,” as well as two albums, When a Man Loves a Woman and Warm & Tender Soul. As part of his album, The Percy Sledge Way, he released three singles in 1967: “Love Me Tender,” “What Am I Living For,” and “Just Out of Reach (of My Two Empty Arms).”

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, Sledge released other singles such as “Take Time to Know Her” (1968), “My Special Prayer” (1969), “Many Rivers to Cross,” (1970), “Stop the World Tonight,” (1971), “Rainbow Road,” (1972), “Sunshine,” (1973), and “I’ll Be Your Everything” (1974). Take Time to Know Her (1968), The Best of Percy Sledge (1968), Percy Sledge In South Africa (1970), and I’ll Be Your Everything (1970) were among Sledge’s other albums released during this period (1974).

Sledge had a brief career comeback in the mid-1980s when his song “When a Man Loves a Woman” re-entered the UK Singles Chart, peaking at No. 2 behind the reissued Ben E. King classic “Stand By Me.” Michael Bolton released his version of Sledge’s song “When a Man Loves a Woman” in his album Time, Love, & Tenderness in the early 1990s (1991). Ironically, Bolton’s version reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Singles chart 25 years after Sledge’s single did in 1966.

Blue Night was released by Sledge in 1994. That year, the album was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album. During his lifetime, Sledge released two more albums, Shining Through the Rain (2004) and The Gospel of Percy Sledge (2006). (2013). Sledge was inducted into Baton Rouge, Louisiana’s Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in 2007. Sledge died of liver cancer on April 15, 2015, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at the age of 74. Sledge had two wives and was survived by his second wife, Rosa Sledge, whom he married in 1980. During his lifetime, he had 12 children.

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