Percy Sledge

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Percy Sledge
Sledge at the 2010 Alabama Music Hall of Fame Concert
Sledge at the 2010 Alabama Music Hall of Fame Concert
Background information
Birth namePercy Tyrone Sledge
Born(1940-11-25)November 25, 1940
Leighton, Alabama, U.S.
DiedApril 14, 2015(2015-04-14) (aged 74)
Baton Rouge, Louisiana, U.S.
GenresR&B, soul, traditional pop
Years active1960–2014
LabelsAtlantic, Capricorn, Monument, Point Blank, Diablo Records, Sledgehammer Records, Virgin

Percy Tyrone Sledge (November 25, 1940 – April 14, 2015) was an American R&B, soul and gospel singer. He is best known for the song "When a Man Loves a Woman", a No. 1 hit on both the Billboard Hot 100 and R&B singles charts in 1966. It was awarded a million-selling, Gold-certified disc from the RIAA.

Having previously worked as a hospital orderly in the early 1960s, Sledge achieved his strongest success in the late 1960s and early 1970s with a series of emotional soul songs. In later years, Sledge received the Rhythm and Blues Foundation's Career Achievement Award. He was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2005.


Early career[edit]

Sledge was born on November 25, 1940, in Leighton, Alabama.[1][2] He worked in a series of agricultural jobs in the fields near Leighton, before taking a job as an orderly at Colbert County Hospital in Sheffield, Alabama. Through the mid-1960s, he toured the Southeast with the Esquires Combo on weekends,[3] while working at the hospital during the week. A former patient and mutual friend of Sledge and record producer Quin Ivy introduced the two. An audition followed, and Sledge was signed to a recording contract.[4]

Sledge performing on tour in 1974

Sledge's soulful voice was perfect for the series of soul ballads produced by Ivy and Marlin Greene, which rock critic Dave Marsh called "emotional classics for romantics of all ages". "When a Man Loves a Woman" was Sledge's first song recorded under the contract, and was released in March 1966.[3] According to Sledge, the inspiration for the song came when his girlfriend left him for a modelling career after he was laid off from a construction job in late 1965,[5] and, because bassist Calvin Lewis and organist Andrew Wright helped him with the song, he gave all the songwriting credits to them.[6] It reached No. 1 in the US and went on to become an international hit. "When a Man Loves a Woman" was a hit twice in the UK, reaching No. 4 in 1966 and, on reissue, peaked at No. 2 in 1987. The song was also the first gold record released by Atlantic Records.[7] The soul anthem became the cornerstone of Sledge's career, and was followed by "Warm and Tender Love" (covered by British singer Elkie Brooks in 1981), "It Tears Me Up", "Take Time to Know Her" (his second biggest US hit, reaching No. 11; the song's lyric was written by Steve Davis), "Love Me Tender", and "Cover Me".[3][6]

Sledge charted with "I'll Be Your Everything" and "Sunshine" during the 1970s, and became an international concert favorite throughout the world, especially in the Netherlands, Germany, and on the African continent; he averaged 100 concerts a year in apartheid-era South Africa.[8][9]

Later career[edit]

Sledge's career enjoyed a renaissance in the 1980s when "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", after being used in a Levi's commercial.[3] In the early 1990s, Michael Bolton brought "When a Man Loves a Woman" back into the limelight again on his hit album Time, Love, & Tenderness. On the week of November 17 to November 23, 1991, Bolton's version also hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, exactly 25½ years to the week after Percy's did in 1966.

In 1994, Saul Davis and Barry Goldberg produced Sledge's album, Blue Night, for Philippe Le Bras' Sky Ranch label and Virgin Records. It featured Bobby Womack, Steve Cropper, and Mick Taylor among others.[3] Blue Night received a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Blues Album, Vocal or Instrumental, and in 1996 it won the W.C. Handy Award for best soul or blues album.

In 2004, Davis and Goldberg also produced the Shining Through the Rain album, which preceded his induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Songs on the CD were written by Mikael Rickfors, Steve Earle, the Bee Gees, Carla Olson, Denny Freeman, Allan Clarke and Jackie Lomax.[10] The same year Percy recorded a live album with his band Sunset Drive entitled Percy Sledge and Sunset Drive – Live in Virginia on WRM Records produced by Warren Rodgers.

In May 2007, Percy was inducted into The Louisiana Music Hall Of Fame in his home city of Baton Rouge, LA.

In December 2010, Rhino Handmade issued a four-CD retrospective, The Atlantic Recordings, which covers all of the issued Atlantic masters, as well as many of the tracks unissued in the United States (although some were simply the mono versions of songs originally issued in stereo; Disc 1 comprises Sledge's first two LPs which were not recorded on stereo equipment). In 2011 Sledge toured with Sir Cliff Richard during his Soulicious tour, performing "I'm Your Puppet".[11]

Personal life[edit]

Sledge married twice and was survived by his second wife, Rosa Sledge, whom he married in 1980.[12] He had 12 children, three of whom became singers.[13]


Sledge died of liver cancer at his home in Baton Rouge on April 14, 2015, at the age of 74.[14] His interment was in Baton Rouge's Heavenly Gates Cemetery.[15]


Sledge was:

Selected discography[edit]


Year Title Chart positions Label
US 200
1966 When a Man Loves a Woman 37 2 Atlantic 8125
Warm & Tender Soul 136 9 Atlantic 8132
1967 The Percy Sledge Way 178 Atlantic 8146
1968 Take Time to Know Her 148 27 Atlantic 8180
The Best of Percy Sledge 133 27 Atlantic 8210
1970 Percy Sledge in South Africa Atlantic ATC 9257
1974 I'll Be Your Everything 48 Capricorn CP 0147
1987 When a Man Loves a Woman (The Ultimate Collection) 36 Atlantic
1994 Blue Night Sky Ranch Records/Virgin
2004 Shining Through the Rain Varèse Sarabande
2013 The Gospel of Percy Sledge Elevate
"—" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released in that territory.


Year Title Chart positions Certifications
US Hot 100
1966 "When a Man Loves a Woman" 1 1 1 4
"Warm and Tender Love" 17 5 10 34
"It Tears Me Up" 20 7 12
1967 "Baby, Help Me" 87 44
"Out of Left Field" 59 25
"Love Me Tender" (A-Side) 40 35 35
→ "What Am I Living For" (B-Side) 91
"Just Out of Reach (of My Two Empty Arms)" 66
"Cover Me" 42 39
1968 "Take Time to Know Her" 11 6 5
"Sudden Stop" 63 41
"You're All Around Me" 109
1969 "My Special Prayer" 93 44
"Any Day Now" (A-Side) 86 35
→ "The Angels Listened In" (B-Side) 126
"Kind Woman" 116
"True Love Travels on a Gravel Road"
1970 "Many Rivers to Cross"
"Help Me Make It Through the Night"
1971 "Stop the World Tonight"
1972 "Rainbow Road"
"Sunday Brother"
1973 "Sunshine" 89
1974 "I'll Be Your Everything" 62 15
1987 "When a Man Loves a Woman" (Re-issue) 2
"—" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released in that territory.


  • 1994: "I Wish It Would Rain" (Sky Ranch / Virgin, Sweden) duet with Mikael Rickfors produced by Saul Davis & Barry Goldberg.
  • 1994 "You Got Away with Love" (Pat Robinson & Rocky Burnette) / "Why Did You Stop?" (Carla Olson) (Sky Ranch / Virgin, France) produced by Saul Davis & Barry Goldberg.[3]

In popular culture[edit]

Sledge is sometimes cited as the inspiration behind the Australian language term "to sledge", meaning "to put someone off their game", first used in Test cricket, though the phrase more probably derives from "subtle as a sledgehammer".[22]


  1. ^ "PERCY SLEDGE Alabama Black History Month". Alabama Local News. Archived from the original on December 3, 2013. Retrieved September 6, 2021.
  2. ^ "Percy Sledge". Museum of the Gulf Coast. Archived from the original on April 26, 2012. Retrieved September 6, 2021.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Strong, Martin C. (2000). The Great Rock Discography (5th ed.). Edinburgh: Mojo Books. pp. 892–893. ISBN 1-84195-017-3.
  4. ^ Aswell, Tom. "Louisiana Music Hall of Fame - Percy Sledge - 2007". Louisiana Music Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on August 14, 2011. Retrieved February 25, 2008..
  5. ^ "Percy Sledge, Who Sang 'When a Man Loves a Woman,' Dies". ABC News. Archived from the original on April 15, 2015. Retrieved April 14, 2015.
  6. ^ a b "Percy Sledge". Retrieved February 3, 2010.
  7. ^ Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 213. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
  8. ^ "Percy Sledge, When a Man Loves a Woman singer, dead at 74". CBC News. Archived from the original on April 29, 2015. Retrieved April 14, 2015.
  9. ^ a b "Soul singer Percy Sledge dies aged 74". BBC News. April 14, 2015. Retrieved April 14, 2015.
  10. ^ Campbell, Al. "Shining Through the Rain". AllMusic. Retrieved April 14, 2015.
  11. ^ Hann, Michael (October 27, 2011). "Cliff Richard – review". The Guardian. Retrieved April 14, 2015.
  12. ^ Farrell, Paul (April 14, 2015). "Percy Sledge Dead: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know".
  13. ^ Roberts, Frank (September 18, 2008). "Sledge's 'When a Man Loves a Woman' hit it big". Archived from the original on April 14, 2015.
  14. ^ McArdle, Terence (April 14, 2015). "Percy Sledge, soul balladeer of 'When a Man Loves a Woman,' dies at 73". Washington Post. Retrieved April 15, 2015.
  15. ^ "Percy Sledge Obituary - Baton Rouge, LA".
  16. ^ a b c d "Soul singer Percy Sledge dies at 73". Irish Examiner. April 14, 2015. Retrieved April 14, 2015.
  17. ^ "Alabama Music Hall of Fame :: Percy Sledge". Archived from the original on September 18, 2012. Retrieved October 26, 2017.
  18. ^ "CBMA Hall of Fame". Retrieved February 3, 2010.
  19. ^ a b c d "Percy Sledge - Awards". AllMusic. Archived from the original on November 5, 2013. Retrieved March 24, 2022.
  20. ^ a b Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 507. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  21. ^ "Percy Sledge - When a Man Loves a Woman". Retrieved August 21, 2022.
  22. ^ Bull, Andy (October 18, 2016). "Cricket's laboured 'art' of sledging has been going downhill for years | The Spin". The Guardian. Retrieved September 25, 2018.

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