Percy Sledge Biography

25 November 1941, Leighton, Alabama, USA. An informal, intimate singer, former hospital nurse Sledge led a popular campus attraction, the Esquires Combo, prior to his recording debut. Recommended to Quin Ivy, owner of the Norala Sound studio, Sledge arrived with a rudimentary draft of ‘When A Man Loves A Woman’. A timeless single, its simple arrangement hinged on Spooner Oldham’s organ sound and the singer’s homely, nasal intonation. Released in 1966, initially on the Ivy imprint before being licensed to Atlantic Records, it was a huge international hit, topping the US pop chart and setting the tone for Sledge’s subsequent path. A series of emotional, poignant ballads followed, poised between country and soul, but none achieved a similar commercial profile. ‘Warm And Tender Love’ (1966), ‘It Tears Me Up’, ‘Out Of Left Field’ (both 1967) and ‘Take Time To Know Her’ (1968) nonetheless stand among southern soul’s finest achievements.

Having left Atlantic Records, Sledge re-emerged on Capricorn in 1974 with I’ll Be Your Everything, which included the R&B Top 20 title track. Two 80s collections of re-recorded hits, Percy! and Wanted Again, confirmed the singer’s intimate yet unassuming delivery. Released in Britain following the runaway success of a resurrected ‘When A Man Loves A Woman’ (the song reached number 2 in 1987 after featuring in a Levi’s advertisement), the albums were not diminished by comparison.

In 1994 Sledge recorded his first all-new set for some time, the excellent Blue Night on Sky Ranch, which capitalized on the singer’s ‘strong suit’, the slow-burning countrified soul ballad, even although the sessions were recorded in Los Angeles. The appearance of musicians such as Steve Cropper and Bobby Womack helped to ensure the success of the album. A decade later Sledge delivered another new album, Shining Through The Rain, on which his remarkable voice again made average material sound great. In March 2005, Sledge was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.