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"When a Man Loves a Woman" is a song recorded by Percy Sledge in 1966 at Norala Sound Studio in Sheffield, Alabama. It made number one on both the Billboard Hot 100 and R&B singles charts. It was listed 54th in the List of Rolling Stone magazine's 500 greatest songs of all time. The sidemen for this recording included Spooner Oldham, organ; Marlin Greene, guitar; Albert "Junior" Lowe, bass and Roger Hawkins, drums. The song is credited to Calvin Lewis and Andrew Wright, who played bass and keyboards with Sledge. However, the song was in fact written by Percy Sledge himself, but he gave it to Lewis and Wright.
Before the recording session, the song had no title or lyrics. The session proceeded with the expectation that Sledge would produce them for the vocal takes. When it came time to record the vocals, Sledge improvised the lyrics with minimal pre-planning, using the melody as a guide for rhythm and phrasing. The performance was so convincing that others working on the session assumed Sledge had the lyrics written down.
It was later covered by Michael Bolton in 1991, whose version also reached number one on the U.S. pop and adult contemporary singles charts (Bolton also received a Grammy Award for this song). Barbara Mandrell recorded a Country version of the song that same year. The song has also been recorded by Marvin Gaye, Jerry Butler, Art Garfunkel, Luba, Otis Redding and Karen Dalton.
Sledge's version was also a top ten hit in the UK peaking at number four on its initial release and peaking at number two in 1987 after it was featured in a Levi's Jeans commercial. The song makes use of a commonly used descending bass line chord progression as in Pachelbel's canon, or Bach's Air on the G string.