Percy Sledge's name often gets mentioned on the short list of questionable Rock Hall inductees. Those who don't think he belongs cite his lack of influence and hits. Some foolishly called him a one-hit wonder.
Sledge was nominated and inducted on his first try in 2005. Many think the only reason he was nominated was that his hits were recorded for Atlantic Records. And it didn't hurt that Atlantic Records chairman Ahmet Ertegun just happened to be the co-founder of the Rock Hall.
"When A Man Loves A Woman" was indeed a "transcendent moment" as Jerry Wexler once said. That Sledge never had as big a hit isn't a surprise. But wasn't for lack of trying. "It Tears Me Up" and "Take Time To Know Her" were superb. Sledge, who was born in Alabama, often cited Country music as an influence, and you can hear it throughout his discography.
What Sledge continued to record were Deep Soul treasures. Long beloved by fans of 60's/70's R&B. Think James Carr, Solomon Burke, Joe Tex, Otis Redding among others.
I was one of those who was puzzled at Sledge's nomination and easy induction. But I've spent a lot of time listening to his back catalog, and realize that I was wrong. In the end my conclusion is that Percy Sledge was a fantastic singer. And I hope that his death will bring about a much-needed reevaluation of his career.
This sound, which of course is epitomized by "When A Man Loves A Woman" is what pushed Sledge into the the Rock Hall. Conspiracy theorists won't agree. They'll say Sledge's long-standing tenure at Atlantic got him in, but I could care less. Ten years after his induction, what the Rock Hall is missing are more, not less, of these types of R&B singers.