aNewDomain — I have always wanted a man who would love me and do me no wrong, but sadly, Percy Sledge is gone.
In salute to Sledge — he passed this week — aNewDomain today celebrates the ageless “When a Man Loves a Woman.” Sledge’s signature tune was released 49 years ago, back in the late great year of 1966. Remember that year? Me, neither. But that’s besides the point.
The tune is unforgettable — ageless, even. Percy’s wail penetrates the decades. That’s why, in honor of Sledge, I’ve collected five of our favorite videos of the song, starting with this version, below. The lyrics scroll as Sledge sings off camera.
Before we move on, let’s catch up on a bit of vital history.
Sledge, you see, was working as a hospital orderly at Colbert County Hospital in Sheffield, Alabama, and the song was born at the hospital Christmas Party where he had been asked to sing.
But as the story goes, all he could think about that night was his girlfriend, who had just run off to Los Angeles with one of his best friends. Following a couple of Jack Daniel’s whiskeys, Sledge asked the band to strike a chord, and he improvised lyrics about his broken heart. He called the tune: “Why Did You Leave Me.” Fortunately for the world, a record producer named Quin Ivy was in the audience, and Ivy urged Sledge to write lyrics worthy of his great music.
A few weeks later, Sledge showed up and apologized to the producer, saying he had been unable to write any good lyrics because “when a man loves a woman, he can’t think about anything else.”
Ivy encouraged Sledge to craft new lyrics around that thought and that led to the song we treasure, which many think single-handedly guaranteed Percy Sledge a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Jimmy Johnson, the sound engineer who recorded “When a Man Loves a Woman” describes working with Sledge on the singer’s first record on this AP video.
In Stefano Cappelletti’s popular tribute compilation, black and white stills of Percy Sledge in performance accompany the Sledge recording. Here it is, below.
And this video circa 2012 captures the emotion that author/singer Sledge still pours out in performance.
You know, “When a Man Loves a Woman” has been showcased in films as varied as The Big Chill, Platoon and The Crying Game.
But we love this romantic alternate ending from the movie When a Man Loves a Woman with Andy Garcia and Meg Ryan. Check it out.
And although Michael Bolton had a huge hit with the song in 1992, we like this Joshua Ledet version sung at In Performance at the White House in 2013.
Sledge passed away in Baton Rouge, LA. He was 73 years old and is survived by his second wife, Rosa, 12 children and dozens of grandchildren. Although the cause of death has not been confirmed, Sledge scaled back his concert schedule after being diagnosed with liver cancer in 2014.
Although his hit describes loving a different woman with all his heart, 12 children prove that later on Sledge proved to be no slacker between the sheets.
And despite being about heartbreak, many brides and grooms embrace “When a Man Loves a Woman,” including Springsteen’s guitarist, Steven Van Zandt, who flew Percy in to sing it at his wedding in 1982. But who doesn’t want someone to sing: “Baby, baby, you’re my world.”
Let us know what video you like best. Or did we miss your favorite Percy Sledge blast from the past? If so, add a YouTube link to the comments below. Include your name if you want credit.
RIP Percy Sledge.
For aNewDomain, I’m Terry Gardner.
Header image credit: “Percy Sledge 1974 touring” by Gene Pugh – http://www.flickr.com/photos/gtpugh/5118503811/in/photostream/. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.