♫ When A Man Loves A Woman ♫

cute-beeSomething I wrote either last night or the night before about the song of the day made reference to Percy Sledge, and hence … I’ve had this song buzzing around in my head like a bee in a field of clover.

There are a couple of interesting things in the backstory to this song.  First, this song is a huge part of music history, as it is the first #1 Hot 100 hit recorded in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, where Aretha Franklin, Paul Simon, The Rolling Stones and many other famous musicians would later record some of their classic songs.

Second, is the dispute over who actually wrote the song.  Percy Sledge claims that he actually wrote the song one night when he was so upset over a woman that, while performing with The Esquires Combo, he was overcome with emotion and asked the band to play a slow blues backing – any key, their choice – to which he could sing.  The band started to play and Sledge vented in song for about six minutes.

In Sledge’s story, Quin Ivy was at the show and approached the band about polishing the song and recording it. Sledge says he worked on the lyrics with Lewis and Wright, and recorded it at Norala Sound with Ivy producing …

“When I wrote the song at first, it was called ‘Why Did You Leave Me Baby.’ And I changed it from that to ‘When a Man Loves a Woman.’ I just reversed it. Quin told me that if I was to write some lyrics around that melody and the expression I’d put into ‘Why Did You Leave Me Baby,’ he believed it would’ve been a hit record. He was one of the top disc jockeys at that time. Sure enough, he asked me if I had any lyrics for that. He said, “That’s it! Write a story around that title! What a song that would be with that feeling you had!” It was a song that was meant to be. It wasn’t just what I had done; it was the musicians, the producer, the background singers, the right time.”

But, according to Andrew Wright …

“We were set to play a Friday night dance, and we were practicing … I was messing around on the organ when this riff came up out of nowhere. There was no one in the club but us. I told Calvin to go home and write some words.”

According to SongFacts …

In Sledge’s version of the story, he co-wrote the song with his bandmates Calvin Lewis and Andrew Wright, but let them have sole composer credits, since they gave him the opportunity to sing his heart out. Whether Sledge was acting out of the goodness of his heart or had nothing to do with writing the song is a matter of debate, but the writing credit had huge implications, resulting in a windfall for Lewis and Wright, who get the royalties every time it is played. Since the song went on to be covered by many artists, they get paid for those as well. If it was a goodwill gesture by Sledge, it cost him millions of dollars.

Who knows?  Percy Sledge died in April 2015, at the age of 73, so we will likely never know quite how this song came to be.  It was later recorded by Michael Bolton, among others, but I remain partial to the Percy Sledge version.

When a Man Loves a Woman
Percy Sledge

When a man loves a woman
Can’t keep his mind on nothing else
He’ll trade the world
For the good thing he’s found
If she’s bad he can’t see it
She can do no wrong
Turn his back on his best friend
If he put her down

When a man loves a woman
Spend his very last dime
Trying to hold on to what he needs
He’d give up all his comfort
Sleep out in the rain
If she said that’s the way it ought to be

Well, this man loves a woman
I gave you everything I had
Trying to hold on to your precious love
Baby, please don’t treat me bad

When a man loves a woman
Down deep in his soul
She can bring him such misery
If she plays him for a fool
He’s the last one to know
Loving eyes can’t ever see

When a man loves a woman
He can do no wrong
He can never own some other girl
Yes when a man loves a woman
I know exactly how he feels
‘Cause baby, baby, baby, you’re my world

When a man loves a woman

Songwriters: Andrew James Wright / Calvin Houston Lewis
When a Man Loves a Woman lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc