When A Man Loves A Woman singer Percy Sledge dies

WASHINGTON (AFP) - American soul icon Percy Sledge, best known for the 1966 hit When A Man Loves A Woman, died Tuesday at the age of 73, his longtime agent Steve Green said.

Sledge, who had been battling liver cancer for more than a year, passed away at his home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Green told AFP.

“We’ve represented a lot of artists here. Percy was one of our first,” said Green, head of Artists International Management.

“What a nice person in a miserable business,” he said. “He was just a decent, decent person.”

Born in Alabama in 1941 when racial segregation prevailed in the South, Sledge began his music career when he was still toiling as a hospital orderly.

With his rich soulful voice, Sledge soon found himself in a recording studio in the small Alabama town of Sheffield where he recorded When A Man Loves A Woman.

Inspired by a woman who left Sledge for another man, it became an immediate worldwide hit for soul music powerhouse Atlantic Records, spending weeks atop the pop music charts.

Sledge once said that he had been humming the melody for years, “even when I was picking and chopping cotton in the fields.”

Sledge went on to record a dozen hits for Atlantic, including Warm And Tender Love, It Tears Me Up, Out Of Left Field and Take Time To Know Her.

He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005, while Rolling Stone magazine put When A Man Loves a Woman at no. 53 on its list of 500 greatest songs of all time.

Michael Bolton put the song back atop the American pop music charts with a cover version in 1991.

Sledge’s official Facebook fan page said the singer – nicknamed “the king of slow soul” – had died “surrounded by his wife Rosa and their children.”

Funeral arrangements have yet to be announced.