Percy Sledge's "When a Man Loves a Woman" takes just 14 seconds before it gets you. Sledge's voice, smooth like marble, rolls in like a freight train, coming at you wave after wave, determined to unravel your heart. It's a song that's as powerful as it is vulnerable, and Sledge's steady vocals give it soul.
"Well, this man loves you, woman. I gave you everything I have," Sledge sings. "Tryin' to hold on to your heartless love. Baby, please don't treat me bad."
It's Sledge's most famous song, and it's one of the most iconic in American music history. "When a Man…" topped the Billboard charts in 1966 (how could it not?), and it was the first commercial hit with the Muscle Shoals (a town in Alabama) sound. Legends like Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, and the Staple Singers would create legendary albums there, too.
Sledge died at his home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on Tuesday, April 14. He was 73. But "When a Man..." is immortal.