He was Few singers could have. It was the first No. Michael Bolton topped the charts in the s with a cover version and Rolling Stone magazine later ranked it No. Before he became famous, Sledge worked in the cotton fields around his hometown of Leighton in northwest Alabama and took a job in a hospital in nearby Sheffield. He also spent weekends playing with a rhythm-and-blues band called the Esquires.
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In , Michael Bolton recorded the song and his version peaked at number one on both the Billboard Hot chart and the Billboard Adult Contemporary Singles chart. Andrew Wright and Calvin Lewis did not play on the record. Rick Hall arranged a distribution deal with Atlantic Records , but Jerry Wexler asked that the song be re-recorded because the horns were out of tune. According to musician David Hood , "They went back in the studio and changed the horns, got different horn players to play on it. But then the tapes got mixed up and Atlantic put out their original version. So that's the hit. It is also one of seven number 1 hits to debut on the Billboard Hot at number
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Here are 10 of the most notable versions. As "Little Esther," she'd scored three Number One hits at the age of 14 — but that had been back in , and the year-old Esther Phillips had gone through a decade of drug addiction and commercial failure before she'd re-emerged with 's "Release Me. Most instrumental covers of "When a Man Loves a Woman" play it pretty straight. Not the version by jazz saxophonist Harris, which opened his album The Tender Storm. He strips the song down to a handful of melodic fragments and a funky little riff or two, propelled by hard-bop pianist Cedar Walton, and reshuffles them into a six-minute jam.
So the title hits you right off the top. In Hit Songwriting , you learn that there is a craft of writing pop music where you tell a bit of a story, but then you quickly get to the chorus. We even have a joke about it: