When a Man Loves a Woman (song)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For the Jody Watley song, see When a Man Loves a Woman (Jody Watley song).
"When a Man Loves a Woman"
Single by Percy Sledge
from the album When a Man Loves a Woman
B-side Love Me Like You Mean It
Released April 16, 1966
Format 7" vinyl "45"
Recorded February 17, 1966, Norala Studios, Sheffield, Alabama
Genre R&B, soul,[1] blues, traditional pop
Length 2:51
Label Atlantic
Writer(s) Calvin Lewis, Andrew Wright
Producer(s) Marlin Greene, Quin Ivy
Certification Gold (RIAA)
Percy Sledge singles chronology
"Warm And Tender Love"
"When a Man Loves a Woman"
"Baby, Help Me"

"When a Man Loves a Woman" is a song written by Calvin Lewis and Andrew Wright which was recorded by Percy Sledge[1] in 1966 at Norala Sound Studio in Sheffield, Alabama. It made number one on both the Billboard Hot 100 and R&B singles charts,[2] and was listed 53rd in Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.


The precise authorship of the song has been disputed. Calvin Lewis and Andrew Wright were members of the Esquires, a band in Sheffield, Alabama fronted by singer Percy Sledge. According to Wright, "We were set to play a Friday night dance, and we were practicing…I was messing around on the organ when this riff came up out of nowhere. There was no one in the club but us. I told Calvin to go home and write some words.” The next night, they rehearsed the emerging song with Sledge, changed it around, and soon afterwards auditioned the song for local businessman and radio DJ Quin Ivy. He liked the song, but suggested that some of the words be changed to give a more positive message. Wright said that "we kept some of the phrases, worked on it for several weeks, and spent quite a bit of time in the studio.”[3]

Although the writing of the song is credited to Lewis and Wright, Sledge later claimed that he should have received a co-writing credit. In one story, Sledge said that one night he was upset over a broken relationship, and asked Lewis and Wright to play a slow blues over which he improvised lyrics describing his emotions; Quin Ivy was at the show and asked the band to refine the lyrics so that it could be recorded. Sledge claimed that he allowed Lewis and Wright to take the writing credits because they gave him the opportunity "to sing his heart out".[4]

In another interview, Sledge said:[5]

"When I wrote the song at first, it was called 'Why Did You Leave Me Baby.' And I changed it from that to 'When a Man Loves a Woman.' I just reversed it. Quin told me that if I was to write some lyrics around that melody and the expression I'd put into 'Why Did You Leave Me Baby,' he believed it would've been a hit record. He was one of the top disc jockeys at that time. Sure enough, he asked me if I had any lyrics for that. He said, 'That's it! Write a story around that title! What a song that would be with that feeling you had!’ It was a song that was meant to be. It wasn't just what I had done; it was the musicians, the producer, the background singers, the right time."

Percy Sledge recording[edit]

The song was initially recorded by Percy Sledge at Rick Hall's FAME Studios at Muscle Shoals, before being re-recorded at the nearby Norala Studios owned by Quin Ivy.[4] The sidemen for the recording included Spooner Oldham, Farfisa organ; Marlin Greene, guitar; Albert "Junior" Lowe, double bass and Roger Hawkins, drums. Wright and Lewis did not play on the record. Rick Hall arranged a distribution deal with Atlantic Records, but Jerry Wexler asked that the song be re-recorded because the horns were out of tune. According to musician David Hood, "They went back in the studio and changed the horns, got different horn players to play on it. But then the tapes got mixed up and Atlantic put out their original version. So that's the hit."[4]

Released by Atlantic Records in April 1966, Sledge's recording reached number one on both the Billboard Hot 100 and R&B singles charts,[6] becoming the first #1 hit recorded in Muscle Shoals. It is also one of seven #1 hits to debut on the Billboard Hot 100 at #100. It was also a top ten hit in the UK peaking at number four on its initial release and peaking at number two in 1987 after it was featured in a Levi's Jeans commercial.


Michael Bolton version[edit]

The song was covered by Michael Bolton in 1991, whose version also reached number one on the U.S. pop and adult contemporary singles charts. Bolton also received a Grammy Award for this song. This version has the distinction of being the last number one song to chart on the old Billboard Hot 100 charting system which relied on sales and airplay reports before switching over to Soundscan.

End of year chart (1992) Position
U.S. Billboard Hot 100[7] 54

Other charting versions[edit]

A version of the song with revised lyrics, "'When a Woman Loves a Man", was recorded by Esther Phillips in late 1966 and reached #73 on the Hot 100 and #26 on the R&B chart.[8]

Bette Midler recorded the song in 1980 for her movie The Rose. Her version reached #35 in the US.

Three separate country music covers have made the Hot Country Songs charts: John Wesley Ryles (#72 in 1976),[9] Jack Grayson and Blackjack (#18 in 1981)[10] and Narvel Felts (#60 in 1987).[11]

Australian rock singer Jimmy Barnes released a live version as a single from his 1988 album Barnestorming that was a #3 hit in Australia.[citation needed]

Other versions[edit]

The Spencer Davis Group recorded a version on their 1966 UK album Autumn '66 (Fontana TL5359).

Singer-songwriter and ex-Guess Who front man Burton Cummings recorded the song for his 1978 release Dreams Of A Child.

Former Birtha bassist Rosemary Butler recorded her version for the 1983 debut album Rose.

In 1996, Kenny Rogers recorded the song for his album, Vote For Love. Barbara Mandrell recorded a country version of the song that same year.

The song has also been recorded by Jerry Butler, Jerry Lee Lewis, Art Garfunkel, Luba, and Karen Dalton.


  1. ^ a b Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 52 – The Soul Reformation: Phase three, soul music at the summit. [Part 8] : UNT Digital Library" (audio). Pop Chronicles. Digital.library.unt.edu.  Track 3.
  2. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 533. 
  3. ^ Vernell Hackett, "Writers Pen Only One Hit: But…When A Man Loves A Woman” Is A Definite Hit", American Songwriter, September 1, 1994. Retrieved 14 April 2015
  4. ^ a b c "When a Man Loves a Woman", Songfacts.com. Retrieved 14 April 2015
  5. ^ Randall Roberts, "Percy Sledge's 'When a Man Loves a Woman,' a great American ballad", LA Times, April 14, 2015. Retrieved April 14, 2015
  6. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 533. 
  7. ^ "Billboard Top 100 - 1992". Retrieved 2010-07-30. 
  8. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1996). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-1995. Record Research. p. 348. 
  9. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2008). Hot Country Songs 1944 to 2008. Record Research, Inc. p. 367. ISBN 0-89820-177-2. 
  10. ^ Whitburn, p. 168
  11. ^ Whitburn, p. 143

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"Monday, Monday" by The Mamas & the Papas
Billboard Hot 100 number one single (Percy Sledge version)
May 28, 1966
(two weeks)
Succeeded by
"Paint It, Black" by The Rolling Stones
Preceded by
"Get Ready" by The Temptations
Billboard Hot R&B Singles number-one single
May 7, 1966 – May 28, 1966 (four weeks)
Succeeded by
"It's a Man's Man's Man's World" by James Brown and the Famous Flames
Preceded by
"Too Many Walls" by Cathy Dennis
Billboard Adult Contemporary number-one single (Michael Bolton version)
November 2, - November 23, 1991
Succeeded by
"That's What Love Is For" by Amy Grant
Preceded by
"Cream" by Prince and The New Power Generation
Billboard Hot 100 number one single (Michael Bolton version)
November 23, 1991
(one week)
Succeeded by
"Set Adrift on Memory Bliss" by P.M. Dawn