Songs Cry: RIP Percy Sledge

We send off Percy Sledge with 20 southern-soul tearjerkers
By    April 15, 2015

Art by Gene Pugh

Jordan Pedersen just has something in his eye.

Berry Gordy got it wrong. That’s not to say he and his stable of hitmakers at Motown Records couldn’t make a great song. Gladys Knight, Diana Ross, the Temptations, Marvin Gaye: they created classic sunshine R&B for the pop charts, and Motown is still synonymous with soul today. But even Marvin Gaye had to fight Gordy tooth and nail to take his sound where it needed to go.

It’s because Gaye knew, as did southern soul icon Percy Sledge, that soul is pain. Soul is standing outside your lover’s window screaming until you go hoarse for him to open the door. It’s being so infatuated with someone that you feel like your heart is on their string. It’s not about how sweet it is to be loved by you. It’s about how a man in love will give up all his comforts and sleep out in the rain.

Percy Sledge, who wrote the immortally piteous “When a Man Loves a Woman,” died at the age of 74 on Tuesday at his home in Baton Rouge. During an interview for 2013 documentary Muscle Shoals, Sledge said it was the “same melody that I sang when I was out in the fields. I just wailed out in the woods and let the echo come back to me.” The man understood sadness.

He was part of a class of southern R&B singers who saw keenly to the heart of soul music, and saw that heart was best when broken. Southern soul is a genre littered with album covers of teardrop-stained cheeks.

In honor of the dearly departed Mr. Sledge, Passion of the Weiss presents a playlist of 20 of the most heartbreaking southern soul anthems we could find. Tupac made a song about crying, so don’t sweat it if this has you reaching for the tissues.

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