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Percy Sledge, Legendary Soul Singer Behind 'When A Man Loves a Woman,' Dies

Percy Sledge, the voice behind "When A Man Loves a Woman" and many other soul classics, has died.
Image: Percy Sledge
Percy Sledge performs on stage at the Echo Arena as special guest of Cliff Richard on Oct. 19, 2011 in Liverpool, UK. Sledge, 73, has reportedly died at his home in Baton Rouge, La.Christie Goodwin / Getty Images
/ Source: NBC News

Percy Sledge, the voice behind the legendary soul track "When A Man Loves a Woman," has died, his representatives at Artists International Management confirmed Tuesday.

The coroner in East Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where Sledge lived, told The Associated Press he died Tuesday morning.

The details of Sledge's death were not immediately available. He had been treated last year for liver cancer, a diagnosis that spurred a benefit concert last September.

Sledge was born in Leighton, Alabama, and was working as a hospital orderly in 1965 when he began singing at local clubs with a group called the Esquires, according to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, where Sledge was inducted in 2005.

"When A Man Loves A Woman" was released by Atlantic Records the following year, rising to the top of the R&B and pop charts. It was the culmination of a tune he had singing to himself for years.

“I hummed it all my life, even when I was picking and chopping cotton in the fields,” he told the Hall of Fame.

He improvised the words while performing at a fraternity party, where his soon-to-be-producer, Quin Ivy, heard him. Sledge later recalled recording the song in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, wearing a baseball uniform; he harbored dreams of playing professionally.

The song would be his biggest hit — a certified classic.

Sledge, who sang in a soaring, gospel-influenced voice, went on to record many more albums. Among his other hits in the late 1960s were “Warm and Tender Love,” “It Tears Me Up,” “Out of Left Field” and “Take Time to Know Her.”

— Jon Schuppe
Singer Percy Sledge has died at his home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.Val Wilmer / Getty Images Contributor