500 Greatest Songs of All Time

Rolling Stone's definitive list of the 500 greatest songs of all time.

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Percy Sledge, 'When a Man Loves a Woman'

53. Percy Sledge, 'When a Man Loves a Woman'

Writers: Calvin Lewis, Andrew Wright
Producers: Marlin Greene, Quin Ivy
Released: March '66, Atlantic
13 weeks; No. 1 

Sledge was touring the South with an R&B combo called the Esquires when producer Ivy heard him belt out an intense, pleading ballad at the local Elks Club. Sledge had recently lost both his construction job and his girl, who'd taken off for L.A. to pursue a modeling career. "I didn't have any money to go after her, so there was nothing I could do to try and get her back," he later recalled. Ivy had the lyrics rewritten, and Sledge quit the Esquires to cut his first solo side, the immortal "When a Man Loves a Woman." When Atlantic's Jerry Wexler heard the song, he told partner Ahmet Ertegun, "Our billing for the summer is in the bag."

Appears on: It Tears Me Up: The Best of Percy Sledge (Rhino)

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