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Percy Sledge, singer of possibly THE definitive soul ballad, has died

He died this morning aged 73.

Source: dumpster0101/YouTube

PERCY SLEDGE, SINGER of classic soulful ballad ‘When a Man Loves a Woman,’ has died at age of 73.

Louisiana Coroner Dr. William “Beau” Clark confirmed to that Sledge died early Tuesday morning.

Sledge’s first recording took him from hospital orderly to a long touring career averaging 100 performances a year and an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005.

Between 1966 and 1968, Sledge used his forlorn, crying vocal style to record a series of Southern soul standards.

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, the song was for many the definitive soul ballad, a testament of blinding, all-consuming love haunted by fear and graced by overwhelming emotion.

Before he became famous, Sledge worked in the cotton fields around his hometown of Leighton in northwest Alabama and took a job in a hospital in nearby Sheffield. A patient at the hospital heard him singing while working and recommended him to record producer Quin Ivy.

In the 2013 documentary “Muscle Shoals,” Sledge recalled recording the song:

“When I came into the studio, I was shaking like a leaf. I was scared.” He added 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.”

Percy Sledge Percy Sledge at the Musicians Hall of Fame in 2008. Source: AP

The song was a personal triumph for Sledge, who seemed on the verge of sobbing throughout the production, and a breakthrough for Southern soul. It was the first No. 1 hit from Alabama’s burgeoning Muscle Shoals music scene, where Aretha Franklin and the Rolling Stones among others would record, and the first gold record for Atlantic Records.

Atlantic Records executive Jerry Wexler later called the song “a transcendent moment” and “a holy love hymn.”

“When a Man Loves a Woman” was re-released after being featured in Oliver Stone’s Vietnam War film “Platoon” in 1987 and reached No. 2 in Britain.

Michael Bolton topped the charts in the 1990s with a cover version and Rolling Stone magazine later ranked it No. 53 on its list of the greatest songs of all time.

It continued kept popping up in movies, including “The Big Chill” and “The Crying Game.”

In later years, Sledge continued to be an in-demand performer in the United States and Europe.

Read: Hundreds pay tribute to 13-year-old surfing champion killed by shark >

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