When A Man Loves A Woman – Percy Sledge

THIS DAY IN MUSIC……………………………………..on May 28th of 1966 Percy Sledge hit the top of the US charts with “When A Man Loves A Woman”, a song that he improvised with his band one night when he was upset over a failed romance. A more polished version of the song was released in early April and became Percy’s only US Top Ten hit. It reached #4 in the UK. This song is a huge part of music history, as it is the first #1 Hot 100 hit recorded in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, where Aretha Franklin, Paul Simon, The Rolling Stones and many other famous musicians would later record some of their classic songs. Sledge co-wrote the song with his bandmates Calvin Lewis and Andrew Wright, but let them have sole composer credits, since they gave him the opportunity to sing his heart out. Whether Sledge was acting out of the goodness of his heart or had nothing to do with writing the song is a matter of debate, but the writing credit had huge implications, resulting in a windfall for Lewis and Wright, who get the royalties every time it is played. Since the song went on to be covered by many artists, they get paid for those as well. If it was a goodwill gesture by Sledge, it cost him millions of dollars. Percy Sledge says that when he originally sang this, he had in mind Lizz King, his girlfriend of three years who left him for a modeling job in Los Angeles. Said Sledge: “I didn’t have any money to go after her, so there was nothing I could do to try and get her back.” The musicians who played on this song were many of the same guys who recorded at FAME, and later at Muscle Shoals Sound Studios, a competing studio that opened in 1969. This included Spooner Oldham on organ, Marlin Greene on guitar, Junior Lowe on bass, and Roger Hawkins on drums. A year after this was released, Procol Harum used the unusual chord progression as the basis for their song “A Whiter Shade Of Pale.” This was a #1 US hit for Michael Bolton in 1991. It’s one of many Soul classics that Bolton covered. This was by far the biggest hit for Sledge, and his only Top 10 in the UK or US. His next release was “Warm and Tender Love,” which made #17 US, #34 UK. His second-biggest US hit was “Take Time to Know Her” in 1968. Among this song’s many admirers is John Fogerty. When asked which song he wished he’d written, he answered without hesitation, “When a Man Loves a Woman.”