If you are going to be associated in the public imagination with just one song, you could do a lot worse than "When a Man Loves a Woman". Thanks to a jeans ad, films - most recently, one that even shares a title with the song - and TV series, even those with little knowledge of popular music are familiar with the heart-rending ballad. But though Percy Sledge has done well by a song rooted in his own bitter experience, he was no one-hit wonder. Such follow-ups to that 1966 Number One as "It Tears Me Up" and "Warm and Tender Love" benefited from the period's love of churchy Southern soul. When that era waned, however, Sledge found it difficult to sell records and had to compete with other stalwarts of the style on the supper-club circuit. But, true to the theme of his biggest hit, he has never given up and last year astounded critics by releasing an album (Blue Night on Pointblank/Virgin) that - but for the odd slick piece of production - sounded like it had been made when he was at the height of his fame. Much of this is due to the presence of such Southern soul luminaries as Steve Cropper and Bobby Womack, combined with the selection of songs associated with the likes of James Carr and Otis Redding. Next week (15- 20 Jan), there is the chance to judge for yourselves the shape those famous pipes are in, when their mid-50s owner appears at London's Jazz Cafe.
Jazz Cafe, London NW1. Booking: 0171-344 0044Reuse content