Song of the Week – Out of Left Field, Percy Sledge

Ignored           Obscured            Restored

Today’s SotW is another guest spot by Michael Paquette, who made his first contribution on February 1st.  His passion for music is evident in this salute to a soul obscurity by Percy Sledge.

Percy Sledge had a massive hit with the first song he ever recorded in the southern soul studio, Muscle Shoals in 1966.  “When A Man Loves A Woman” was a huge hit both here in America and internationally and received even more recognition in the movies The Big Chill (1983), Platoon (1987) and The Crying Game (1992).  It originally reached #4 on the British charts and upon re-release in 1988 hit #2.

He never had another US top 10 chart hit but he did manage to have years of success with lesser known songs on the R&B charts such as “Take Time to Know Her,” “Warm and Tender Love” and “It Tears Me Up.”

But “Out of Left Field” may have been his finest work.  It was released in the spring of 1967 about a year after “When A Man Loves A Woman.”  It is a tender love song about that first moment of suddenly found love.  “Out of Left Field” is a great representation of Percy Sledge’s range and the strength of his voice to move listeners.  It is a soulful song that could almost come off as a country tune.

The lyrics, written by Spooner Oldham and Dan Penn who did so much work for Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, The Box Tops and Bobby Purify, leave an indelible mark on the Muscle Shoals sound through their simplicity and genuineness.

Sugar and peaches in a paradise land,

Good love and sweetness have taken their stand

She made a mountain of love

From a little grain of sand.

Suddenly, out of left field

Came a lover and a friend

These are definitely lines that anyone can relate to and words that could fit into nearly any genre of music.  This song remains a favorite of mine and it is another masterpiece from a seriously underappreciated artist.

“Out of Left Field” was covered by Gregg Allman, Al Kooper and John Fred & His Playboy Band (of “Judy In Disguise” fame)! 

Although many of Sledge’s songs weren’t nearly as famous as his first hit, he was elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005 and was fittingly inducted by another soulful artist with a famous voice — Rod Stewart.

Enjoy… until next week.

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