Percy Sledge, the R&B singer and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee whose biggest hit, “When a Man Loves a Woman,” became a staple of soul music, died today in Louisiana, reports CNN. He was 73.
But his first and biggest hit, “When a Man Loves a Woman,” out-shined them all.
The slow melodious song came directly from the heart: Originally called “Why Did You Leave Me Baby,” he’d written it about a former girlfriend, drawing from a tune that he used to sing to himself as a child. The song was about a girl who had left him for another guy. Heartbreak was a great inspiration for Sledge.
“I hummed it all my life, even when I was picking and chopping cotton in the fields,” the Alabama-born singer told the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
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At the time of the song’s writing, Sledge was working as a hospital orderly, picking up gigs at night with a group called the Esquires Combo. In a fit of generosity, he gave the songwriting credit for “Woman” to two of the Esquires, Calvin Lewis and Andrew Wright, who had helped him with a few chords.
This Thursday his biggest hit turns 49 years old.
Below is a video of the legendary song. He will be missed.