Billboard reports that the soul great Percy Sledge, best known for his classic ballad “When A Man Loves A Woman,” died this morning at his home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Sledge, who had been battling liver cancer for years, was 73.
Born in Alabama, Sledge started out singing with his group the Esquires Combo in the mid-’60s. At the time, he worked as a hospital orderly, but he and his group would tour their area on the weekends. Sledge signed on with the record producer Quin Ivy, and “When A Man Loves A Woman” was the first song he recorded under contract. Sledge wrote it with two Esquires Combo bandmates, and it became a titanic hit, going to #1 for the first time in 1966. People like Bette Midler and Michael Bolton would famously cover it later, and Bolton’s version also went to #1 in 1991.
Sledge had a huge, wounded voice, and he tended to hit ballads out of the park. He kept recording singles up into the late ’60s, landing more hits with songs like “Warm And Tender Love,” “It Tears Me Up,” and “Take Time To Know Her.” He’d also become a cult favorite in England in the ’70s, when the Northern Soul scene embraced his faster songs like “Baby Help Me.” He kept recording and performing up until near the end of his life; he last album was 2013’s The Gospel Of Percy Sledge.
Below, watch Sledge sing “When A Man Loves A Woman” live in TV.