Percy Sledge Dies At 73 Of Liver Cancer – Singer Gave Us First Southern Soul Hit

The man who gave voice to the original “When a Man Loves a Woman,” Percy Sledge, has died at age 73.

Sledge died just after midnight Tuesday morning, his doctor, William “Beau” Clark, M.D., told Fox 8. Percy was under hospice care after a long battle with liver cancer, and he died with his wife Rosa and his children by his side.

Though Sledge is most famous for “When a Man Loves a Woman,” he had a long career, highlighted by several other hits. The song originally hit the airwaves in 1996 (it was the first Southern soul record to top the charts), was re-released in 1987, and covered by Michael Bolton in 1991, CNN added.

During the 1960s, Percy sang at frat parties and clubs throughout the Southeast on the weekends with his group, the Esquires, and he worked as a hospital orderly Monday to Friday, ABC News added.

“I was singing every style of music: the Beatles, Elvis Presley, James Brown, Wilson Pickett, Motown, Sam Cooke, the Platters,” Percy said, according to his Rock & Roll Hall of Fame biography.

His big break came in 1966, when he recorded his most famous song – also his first. The tune was inspired by Sledge’s real-life heartbreak: his girlfriend left him for another guy not long before the song hit the charts.

But Percy had been humming the tune long before that.

“I hummed it all my life, even when I was picking and chopping cotton in the fields,” he once said. The words came to him spontaneously while at a frat party in Mississippi, and the song’s ultimate producer, Quin Ivy, overheard, telling him, “If you ever think about cutting a record, come on by, because I love that melody.”

The rest, as they say, is history.

Percy’s signature tunes expressed “loneliness, attraction and betrayal,” and his voice matched those themes perfectly. Percy’s tone was “forlorn, crying” and pure, revealing the singer’s gospel roots, according to his bio. A music journalist once commented that Sledge’s pipes were “the South itself, in all its bountiful, contradictory mystery.”

That pure voice crooned many a hit tune: “Warm and Tender Love,” “It Tears Me Up,” “Out of Left Field” and “Take Time to Know Her.”And he kept making music right up until 2013, when he released “The Gospel of Percy Sledge.”

Though Percy Sledge has died at the too-young age of 73, his music will endure forever.

[Photo Courtesy Rick Diamond/Getty Images]