Percy Sledge, who recorded the classic 1966 soul ballad “When a Man Loves a Woman,” has died, his agent said Tuesday. He was 74.
The Alabama native, whose 1966 hit “When a Man Loves a Woman,” reached No. 1 on the charts, died after a long battle with cancer, according to his agent.
Sledge’s first recording took him from hospital orderly to a long touring career averaging 100 performances a year and an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005.
Between 1966 and 1968, Sledge used his forlorn, crying vocal style to record a series of Southern soul standards.
In later years, Sledge continued to be an in-demand performer in the United States and Europe as “When a Man Loves a Woman” kept popping up in movies, including “The Big Chill” and “The Crying Game”.
‘Just a decent, decent person’
Announcing the news Tuesday, the soul icon’s longtime agent Steve Green said Sledge passed away at home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Speaking to AFP, Green, who heads Artists International Management, said, “We’ve represented a lot of artists here. Percy was one of our first….
“What a nice person in a miserable business,” said Green. “He was just a decent, decent person.”
Born in Alabama in 1941 when racial segregation prevailed in the South, Sledge began his music career when he was still toiling as a hospital orderly.
With his rich soulful voice, Green soon found himself in a recording studio in the small Alabama town of Sheffield where he recorded “When a Man Loves a Woman”.
Inspired by a woman who left Sledge for another man, it became an immediate worldwide hit for soul music powerhouse Atlantic Records, spending weeks on top of the pop music charts.
Sledge once said that he had been humming the melody for years, “even when I was picking and chopping cotton in the fields”.
Sledge went on to record a dozen hits for Atlantic, including “Warm and Tender Love”, “It Tears Me Up”, “Out of Left Field” and “Take Time to Know Her”.
But the Alabama native will go down in soul history for his rendition of “When a Man Loves a Woman,” which Rolling Stones magazine put at number 53 on its list of 500 greatest songs of all time.
Michael Bolton put the song back atop the American pop music charts with a cover version in 1991.
Sledge’s official Facebook fan page said the singer — nicknamed “the king of slow soul” — had died “surrounded by his wife Rosa and their children”.