In the mid-'60s singer Percy Sledge was performing throughout Mississippi and Alabama as a member of the Esquires Combo. His career took a dramatic turn for the better in 1966, when he quit to go solo and scored a #1 pop and R&B hit with his debut single, "When a Man Loves a Woman." Sledge remained a popular singer through the end of the decade, working in the same intense balladeering style of "When a Man."
His successes included "Warm and Tender Love" (#17 pop, #5 R&B) and "It Tears Me Up" (#20 pop, #7 R&B) in 1966; "Out of Left Field" (#25 R&B) in 1967; "Sudden Stop" (#41 R&B) in 1968; "Any Day Now" (#35 R&B) in 1969; and especially "Take Time to Know Her" (#11 pop, #6 R&B) in 1968. Sledge's career stalled in the '70s, save for a brief resurgence with the R&B hits "Sunshine" (#89 R&B, 1973) and "I'll Be Your Everything" (#15 R&B, 1974).
Sledge's career faded somewhat after that, although he continued to tour the U.S., England, Japan, and the U.K. through the rest of that decade and into the '80s. The use of "When a Man Loves a Woman" in the 1987 hit film Platoon sparked a resurgence for Sledge, and that year the song was rereleased in the U.K., where it went to #2. In 1989 he won the Rhythm & Blues Foundation's Career Achievement Award. He continues to perform, playing over 100 dates a year. As of this writing, he lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. In 1994 he was sentenced to five years' probation afer being convicted of tax evasion.
This biography originally appeared in The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll (Simon & Schuster, 2001).
Inside R&B Great Percy Sledge's Little-Known Country Album
The "When a Man Loves a Woman" singer, who died today at age 74, covered songs by Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash for 1979 LP
Remembering Soul Legend Percy Sledge
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame R&B singer made "anything possible" when he sang, said Rod Stewart