Percy Sledge: 10 Essential Tracks

The soul legend was best known for "When a Man Loves a Woman," but his career was filled with undiminished treasures

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"When a Man Loves a Woman" (1966)

"When a Man Loves a Woman" made Percy Sledge's career, but it was also the first Southern soul record to top the Billboard Hot 100. Other R&B singles had become pop Number Ones — many were racked up by Ray Charles at the dawn of the Sixties — but Sledge's hit opened the doors for deep soul, creating a sound others would mimic for years to come (not to mention cover, as Michael Bolton did on a faithful chart-topper from 1991). Oversaturation may have rendered the song too familiar, but nothing can diminish the power of Sledge's performance: It's passionate but also nuanced, his heartbreak surfacing in the quiet murmurs where it seems as if he's gasping for air between sobs.