April 14, 2015

Goodbye to Percy Sledge.

The great soul singer was 74.
A No. 1 hit in 1966, "When a Man Loves a Woman" was Sledge's debut single, an almost unbearably heartfelt ballad with a resonance he never approached again. Few singers could have. Its mood set by a mournful organ and dirge-like tempo, "When a Man Loves a Woman" was for many the definitive soul ballad, a testament of blinding, all-consuming love haunted by fear and graced by overwhelming emotion.

The song was a personal triumph for Sledge, who seemed on the verge of sobbing throughout the production, and a breakthrough for Southern soul.... Atlantic Records executive Jerry Wexler later called the song "a transcendent moment" and "a holy love hymn."
I've expressed my personal distaste for this recording a few times, but it was always in the context of remembering how I reacted when it came on the rock and roll station and I was only 15. That has no significance today.

33 comments:

sparrow said...

Always loved that song

hawkeyedjb said...

Absolutely the greatest soul ballad evah. They'll play this one a hundred years from now.

Percy Sledge peaked early in life, but that's better than never peaking at all.

MayBee said...

I love the song. When I was a preteen and teen, it was a huge contradiction to the Cosmo and Vogue articles about how men really only want sex, not love.
I found it very powerful.

eddie willers said...

He sang at my 1969 Junior/Senior prom.

I slow danced with Karen Blackstone to "When A Man Loves A Woman".

Next year was the Allman Brothers and Mary Staley.

What a difference a year makes.

William said...

There was a lot more to Percy than When a Man Loves a Woman. His work includes You're Pouring Water on a Drowning Man; Come Softly to Me; Out of Left Field; Warm and Tender Love; and many more. He was a great R&B crooner.

I saw Percy at the Stallion Club in Durham, NC in 1968, and he had everybody in the room — black and white — in the palm of his hand.

Hope I'll meet him in my next life … at The Dark End of The Street.

EDH said...

"When a man loves a woman."

How hetero-normative!

"He sang at my 1969 Junior/Senior prom."

But not a same-sex prom or wedding?

Obviously a hater.

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

"When a Man Loves a Woman" answers a generic question that no one ever asked.

tds said...

Wow, I have just watched him 2 days ago on Saturday Night Live from the 80s.

Coupe said...

Every sock-hop had to have slow songs...

Sadly, he never lived off that record, as he was cheated out of writing credit.

The two guys who got all the bucks didn't even play on the studio recording.

Music business, gotta luv it...

Wilbur said...

Great song, great vocal.
I was much taken by the intro, with the organ that sounded like a funeral home and the light cymbal work.

The song always reminds me of my second wife. She got pissed when I told her I ain't sleeping out in the rain for nobody.

traditionalguy said...

That love song is pure southern soul music. And he, a black man from Alabama.

It's no wonder that a well educated Delaware/Philadelphia teenager could not make much sense of it.

Gary Rosen said...

I was only 15 when I first heard it. I loved it then and have ever since.

The Drill SGT said...

OT:

45 years ago today, a Fuel cell on Apollo 13 exploded and produced one of the most heroic sagas of space exploration the world has ever seen.

The Drill SGT said...

OT:

In other news:

The two-and-a-half year period in which the Marine Corps' Infantry Officer Course became gender-integrated for research will end without a single female graduate.

The last training course with women (2) began last week. Both women failed the entry level endurance course as did 9 of 90 men.

That makes 27 attempts with 23 washouts at the entry endurance test and the other 4 dropped along the 89 day IOC...

The good news is that we are able to teach female Marines not to put their hands on other Marine knees...

traditionalguy said...

But Drill Sgt, there were no black men or equal women on Apollo 13. So how can that be important...and nobody died unless you count Gene Kranz's chain smoking.

Besides, "...failure is an unacceptable option" is a racist meme under Obama where failure is agreed to be the only option.

alan markus said...

One of my favorite videos on MTV (watched it back in the 80's):
When A Man Loves A Woman - Percy Sledge (Official Video)

Combining vintage B & W movie footage with an old song seemed like such a creative thing back then - this was before YouTube & MovieMaker - now anyone can make a video like this.

Note: I think young Althouse makes an appearance at 1:30

madAsHell said...

Gene Kranz's chain smoking

I can't believe it.....Gene Kranz is still amongst the living. As is, Chris Kraft at 91 years young.

Bob Ellison said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Browndog said...

Gees, powerful male voice. epic love song.

Not to Althouse. Tough nut to crack.

Not sure how Meade did it, only matters that he did. Hat tip-

Romancing the Stone

Rhythm and Balls said...

The coolest thing about that guy is his name.

The shocker for me is realizing how much of his life passed since the nearly 30 years ago when it closed the Wonder Years premier.

It's almost as much a shocker as the fact that more time has passed since that premier than the time between when he released it and when that show aired.

traditionalguy said...

The Sledge Family of Alabama also had a talented white son named Eugene. He became a Phd and Professor of Biology, but as a young man his best talent seemed to be the art of Killing Japs on Peleliu and on Okinawa playing his 60mm mortar for a group called the First Marines. E. B Sledge's written memoires later revealed him to be as soulful as Percy Sledge.

mikesixes said...

Great singer, great voice, but I never liked the song. Struck me as lacking in self-respect. How could a man love a woman who would treat him like a dog?

Skeptical Voter said...

Well I can understand Percy's dilemma on that song. If you want the white soul version of it, listen to Conway Twitty's "15 Years Ago".

There are women who will put their mark on a young man (and Percy was 26 at the time). That mark will never leave them. In fact, some of those young men will be scarred for life, and will choose never to risk that depth of emotion again.

To paraphrase that African American T shirt, "It's a Black thing and you wouldn't understand", I'll say to our host, "Ann, it's a guy thing, and you wouldn't understand."

Rest in peace Percy. You spoke to a lot of us.

Bob R said...

I never care much about bad reviews of any work of art. All kinds of things can put people off of a work - from the fact that the quality is terrible to a momentary reaction. Doesn't matter. Any work can cause a negative reaction.

A good review tells me that a work hit someone in a really positive way. It might not hit me that way, but at least there is hope.

A Man Loves a Woman has a great vocal and great backing by Booker T. and the MGs. Love those sliding 6ths by Cropper. Great Hammond. It's not WRONG to be unmoved, just a shame.

Bay Area Guy said...

Great song. We need more like it. Cuts straight to the chase. Be a man. Find that woman - and love her.

RIP, Percy.

Quaestor said...

G√ľnter Grass also bought the farm today. Can't say I'll miss the Hitler Jugender much.

rcommal said...

This is why you are no Debbie Harry, Althouse, not to mention why you weren't.

Gary Rosen said...

"A Man Loves a Woman has a great vocal and great backing by Booker T. and the MGs"

No, it was recorded in Muscle Shoals, Alabama by a different set of musicians. Booker T. and the MGs worked in Stax studio in Memphis.

Brando said...

I like the song's message--it's not a simple celebration of love, but rather a lament about the awful things love can do to you. I think a lot of people play the song at weddings not really thinking about the lyrics.

How does one distinguish "southern soul" from say the "Motown sound"? Was it heavier use of guitars and less use of orchestral tracks?

jr565 said...

EDH wrote:
"When a man loves a woman."

How hetero-normative!

When a CIs loves a Xem would be the updated version .

jr565 said...

This song caused a micro aggression to occur.

mikee said...

I appreciate the nuanced and insightful description our blog host provided about her appreciation of music.

I have had to do the same: explain why my favorite Dylan song comes from a Disney AIDS benefit recording, wherein Dylan sings "This Old Man Goes Rolling Home" in his own inimitable style, perfectly capturing the quirkiness of the song in his presentation.

Thank you, Althouse, for a delightful explanation that improved my understanding of you as a person and my understanding of how music works.

Sledge coming on the radio while I'm alone in the car, I have to admit, leads to an impassioned sing-along. Every time.

Mid-Life Lawyer said...

I watched the documentary on Muscle Shoals today. (Netflix) I highly recommend. That song was the first big hit from out of there and Sledge was in the documentary several times commenting on the Muscle Shoals scene and sound. I didn't realize what all went on over there.