Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Farewell to Percy Sledge, singer of the most inappropriate wedding song of all

Soul songs used to be just like country songs. They were about something. They had plots, moments of jeopardy, shattering climaxes as a result of which the singer learned important lessons. Usually too late to do anything but write a song about it.

Percy Sledge, who has just died at the age of seventy-three, played the part of the cuckold. His signature hit, "When A Man Loves A Woman", is about a man who is so blinded by love that he can't see what a bad lot he's just married. Given that, it beggars belief that people still regularly ask for this record as the first dance of a newly-married couple.

Percy repeated the trick with "Take Time To Know Her". In this song he takes his new love to see his mama. She tells him not to rush into things. To take time to know her, in fact. Does he listen? What do you think?


  1. 'Worst case scenario' David. All Man's travails are kept at bay by a liberal sprinkling of conditional 'ifs'.

    If it was a good enough song for the wedding of former English teacher and optimist, Sting, then it'll do me.

  2. Anonymous9:10 am

    Interesting first line there, David. I've long thought that some of country's best songs bear comparison with the finest soul: honest, heart-rending music, generally from (and for) the po' folks. It's just not as widely well-regarded or well-loved – including, I should say, by me. Why? Maybe the genre doesn't travel as well; maybe there's a vestigial worry about old-fashioned music from white southerners.

    Anyway, RIP Percy.

  3. Just read a tribute by Steve Van Zandt who says it was sung at his wedding by Percy himself.

  4. And according to The Times obit, "One of the most romantic soul ballads ever written".

  5. On the subject of inappropriate wedding songs, someone I once knew did the music at his mate's evening do, and played "Love Will Tear Us Apart". To make it worse, the evening was unexpectedly cut short, and it ended up being the final piece of music of the night. I don't know if the couple are still together.

  6. Anonymous9:26 am

    Huw: Heh, as a wedding-set closer it's not exactly New York New York... but I wonder how many of these apparently inappropriate First Songs are chosen with a measure of irony. At the other end of business, a vicar friend of mine says that one of the most popular songs as the casket rolls into the flames is Highway to Hell...

    Andy's mention of the Tantric lute-botherer brings to mind the classic misguided First Song, that stalker's manifesto Every Breath You Take, described by its author thus: "I think the song is very, very sinister and ugly and people have actually misinterpreted it as being a gentle little love song, when it's quite the opposite." Of course, the happy couples could well know this. As per the Simpsons dialogue between two teenagers, "Is this ironic?" "I don't even know any more".