Family, friends, fans say goodbye to singer Percy Sledge

Family, friends and fans say goodbye to singer Percy Sledge - 6 p.m.
Source: Tyana Daquano/WAFB
Source: Tyana Daquano/WAFB
Source: Tyana Daquano/WAFB
Source: Tyana Daquano/WAFB

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Soul singer Percy Sledge, 74, was laid to rest Tuesday.

The 2005 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee died one week ago, after battling liver cancer.

Friends say it's important to talk about the musical icon, who was also inducted into the Lousiana and Texas Music Halls of Fame, to keep his memory alive.

Hometown friends knew Sledge as Wiley D. His brother, called him Number One.

It was after his 1966 hit, "When a Man Loves a Woman", that the world came to know Percy Sledge.

"There's three things I'll remember about Percy. His smile, his kindness, cocking that head when he was singing 'When a Man Loves a Woman,'" said one of Sledge's former producers.

That one song, is one of the most requested at weddings. That title is also how the singer's wife, Rosa, introduces herself. As the woman the man loved.

"Him and Otis are up there singing today," said another friend at Sledge's funeral. "James Brown teaching him how to dance."

Friends say Sledge never knew how to dance, but showcasing his voice was what he did well.

"Heaven's choir just got a whole lot more soul didn't it," said Chaplain Dane Blankenship.

In an interview after his last Baton Rouge performance in May 2012, Sledge told local author Leo Honeycutt, he used to sing to the older people in the fields and in church as well.

"I sing from my heart," Sledge said.

A friend who grew up with Sledge said he never expected his music career to amount to much because there was something else he loved doing when they were younger.

"He could catch a baseball anyway you hit it to him and he had the raggidiest glove on the field," said Joseph Hogan.

But it was music that let Sledge express himself, soul music in particular. It was the lyrics and his voice that people fell in love with. As well as his grin.

"There's not a smile like that in the world anywhere," someone said.

Frank Fletcher, a friend of Sledge, said he opened several car dealerships and hand Sledge perform at each one. The two met at one of Sledge's performances and became good friends.

"Percy made me a promise," Fletcher said. "That he would sing at my funeral. You won't be there buddy, but I'm here. When I do go, buddy, we'll be playing your music like you are there."

Sledge leaves behind his wife and 12 children.

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