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Profile: Percy Sledge

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Percy Sledge in the Sixties

Percy Sledge in the Sixties

soulexpressradio.com

Born:

November 25, 1941, Leighton, AL

Genres:

Southern Soul, Soul, Deep Soul, Country-Soul, Pop-Soul

Instruments:

Vocals

Contributions to music:

  • Practically created the "deep soul" genre with his slow, gospel-styled delivery
  • One of a very few links between country and soul music
  • A powerful vocalist and genuine performer who brings the conviction of blues to soul
  • Created some of the most heartbreaking love songs in the history of rock and roll
  • An interpretive stylist who can find soul in nearly any genre
  • Helped establish Muscle Shoals, AL, as a major center of American music

Early years:

Growing up in the South, the young Percy naturally learned to sing in church, and by the time he'd entered his teenage years, he was doing it professionally with a group called the Esquires Combo. A former fieldhand, Sledge spent the years following high school working as an orderly at Colbert County Hospital in nearby Sheffield. There, a former patient introduced him to local producer Quin Ivy; with the encouragement of Ivy and assistance from promoter Phil Walden, Sledge went solo in 1966.

Success:

The very first song Ivy recorded was Sledge's own "Baby, Why Did You Leave Me," a lament he'd recently written after a bad breakup. With help from songwriters Calvin Lewis and Andrew Wright, as well as a churchy organ from Spooner Oldham, the reworked "When A Man Loves A Woman" became an instant smash, paving the way for several similar hits and putting Oldham, producer Dan Penn, and Muscle Shoals, Alabama, on the musical map for all time. The Atlantic label signed Sledge immediately.

Later years:

As soul got smoother in the early Seventies, Sledge's hits became fewer and farther between, leaving him to quit the business for a while. But a 1987 UK ad for Levi's reintroduced his first hit to audiences, and Percy's been on the road ever since, even releasing two critically acclaimed blues albums in Blue Night and the recent Shining In The Rain. He currently lives in Baton Rouge, LA, with his wife, Rose. He has twelve children and fifteen grandchildren.

Other facts:

  • Eighties Republican polticial strategist Lee Atwater once played guitar for Sledge in the Sixties
  • "When A Man Loves A Woman" was Atlantic's first ever gold single
  • One of the first soul singers to cover country artists like Charlie Rich and Kris Kristofferson
  • "When A Man" hit the UK Top Ten all over again in 1987
  • Suffers from Type 2 Diabetes

Awards/Honors:

  • Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (2005)
  • GRAMMY Award (1966)
  • GRAMMY Hall of Fame (1999)
  • WC Handy Award (1995)

Songs, Albums, and Charts:


#1 hits:
Pop:
  • "When A Man Loves A Woman" (1966)
R&B:
  • "When A Man Loves A Woman" (1966)

Top 10 hits:
R&B:
  • "Warm And Tender Love" (1966)
  • "It Tears Me Up" (1966)
  • "Take Time To Know Her" (1968)

Top 10 albums:
R&B:
  • When A Man Loves A Woman (1966)
  • Warm & Tender Soul (1967)
Other important recordings: "Just Out Of Reach (Of My Two Empty Arms)," "Out Of Left Field," "The Dark End of the Street," "Baby, Help Me," "Cover Me," "Sudden Stop," "My Special Prayer," "I'm Hanging up My Heart for You," "Put a Little Lovin' on Me," "Love Me Like You Mean It," "Love Me Tender," "Bless Your Sweet Little Soul," "True Love Travels on a Gravel Road," "Stop the World Tonight," "It's All Wrong but It's Alright," "Drown in My Own Tears," "Kind Woman," "That's the Way I Want to Live My Life," "You're All Around Me," "You're Pouring Water on a Drowning Man," "That's How Strong My Love Is," "Push Mr. Pride Aside," "It Can't Be Stopped," "Rainbow Road"
Covered by: The Spencer Davis Group, Michael Bolton, Afghan Whigs, Burton Cummings, Bette Midler, Art Garfunkel, Joe Cocker, Gregg Allman, Floyd Cramer, Dobie Gray, Jerry Lee Lewis, Wes Montgomery, Kenny Rogers, O.C. Smith, David Allan Coe
Appears in the movies: "Soul Comes Home" (2003)
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