Percy Sledge, the aching voice behind the iconic 1966 soul ballad “When a Man Loves a Woman,” has passed away at 73 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; the cause was not immediately disclosed.
Born and raised in Alabama, Sledge worked at agricultural jobs and as a hospital orderly performing in musical groups on the side until a former patient introduced him to record producer Quin Ivy, who quickly signed him to a contract. “When a Man Loves a Woman,” inspired by a real-life breakup, soon became his first—and by far most successful—single, reaching the top spot in America and charting in multiple countries abroad, in some cases more than once. (A quarter of a century later, Michael Bolton’s 1991 cover would take it to no. 1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 once again.)
More soulful hits followed for Sledge, including “Take Time to Know Her,” “Warm and Tender Love,” and his version of Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine.” He continued to tour for many years and enjoyed a number of resurgences, including a Grammy-nominated blues album, Blue Night, in 1996 and Shining Through the Rain in 2004, the same year he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.