God Speed Percy Sledge Gone at 74

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Submitted by Don Graham

Percy Sledge, who became famous for his soulful rendition of the mournful classic, “When a Man Loves a Woman”, has died in Baton Rouge Louisiana at age 74.

Sledge, seemed close to tears throughout the production which was the first No.1 hit from Alabama's blooming Muscle Shoals music scene, where Aretha Franklin and the Rolling Stones among others would record, and the first gold record for Atlantic Records.

During an interview for the 2013 documentary Muscle Shoals, Sledge recalled the recording of the song. "When I came into the studio, I was shaking like a leaf. I was scared," he said, adding that it was the "same melody that I sang when I was out in the fields. I just wailed out in the woods and let the echo come back to me". He says “I came up with the melody for When A Man Loves A Woman, but signed away the rights of the song to Calvin Lewis and Andrew Wright, because "I didn't know any better"."I had the melody in my mind so I gave that song to them," he said, adding they then created the lyrics. Sledge did not contest the agreement, saying: "I felt like if God fixed it in my mouth to give it to them I won't change anything about it. I'm satisfied with what I wrote but I cut my kids out of so much because I gave it to someone else - I just wasn't thinking."

While identified with the Muscle Shoals music scene, Sledge spent most of his career living in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He was inducted in the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in 1993, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2005 and the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in 2007.

In April 1994, Sledge pleaded guilty in federal court to tax evasion involving income from concerts in the late 1980s. He was sentenced to six months in a halfway house, given five years of probation, and ordered to pay $96,000 in back taxes and fines. When he pleaded guilty, he told the judge, "I knew I owed more."

Sledge married twice and was survived by his second wife, Rosa Sledge, whom he married in 1980.He had 12 children, two of whom became singers.

Sledge had surgery for liver cancer in January 2014 and died at home on April 14th. 2015. Rest in peace Percy Sledge.