Joe Van Langenberg

With the passing of one of the greatest American Gospel, Rhythm & Blues (R&B) & soul performers of all time, Percy Tyrone Sledge, the final curtain has been brought down on a voice, which was tinged with sadness, raw emotion & one, which packed a punch like no other.

Shooting to stardom with his best known hit & signature song, “When a man loves a woman”, which incidentally Michael Bolton covered, Percy released many others; conspicuous among them been “My special prayer, What am I living for? (which was Millie’s original), Just out of reach, It tears me up, A whiter shade of pale, Misty moment & First you cry” among a host of others. “When a man loves a woman” secured a Number One slot for Percy, on both Billboard Hot 100 & R&B Charts in1966; while been awarded a million-selling Gold Certified Disc from the prestigious RIAA music mecca.

Born in Leighton, Alabama, USA on November 25th 1941, Percy breathed his last in April 2000; succumbing to the ravages of liver cancer.

He passed away in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA. Percy was an integral part of the music industry from 1960-2014. For Percy, there had been the excruciating grind behind the trappings of fame.

He started his working career as a hospital orderly back in the early sixties, when racism, both polite & full-on, was entrenched in most sections of impoverished black communities. For Percy, it was a constant battle for survival, given the almost insurmountable hurdles he needed to clear. But he managed to keep on rolling with the punches, seperating the grain & with a breath of kindness, blowing away the chaff. It was heartache by the number.

But Percy finally prevailed through grit, determination, while bearing in mind that the word “impossible” was only found in the dictionary of fools.

Those close to him said that his song “It tears me up” was born out of emotional fragility, on been dumped by his then high-maintenance girl-friend, before she secured a lucrative modelling contract.

During his lifetime, Percy Sledge survived near-nervous breakdowns, as well as encounters with the destructive “Black Dog”.

Percy received the Rhythm & Blues Foundation’s Career Achievement Award. He was inducted into the “Rock ‘N’ Roll House of Fame” in 2005. His record labels included Atlantic, Capricorn, Monument, Sledgehammer & Virgin.

Those who knew Percy best, vouched for his integrity & his willingness to lend a helping hand to anyone, going through a rough patch.

This phenomenal singer who warbled his vocals to great effect, ushered happiness into a multitude of lives. Best described as one with a heart of gold, larger-than-life Percy Sledge will be missed.

The void he has left, will be hard to fill. Without a doubt, he has placed his indelible footprint on music’s luscious turf. May his immortal soul rest in eternal peace!

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