This week, fans of old school soul music lost two notable, if not all-time great, singers. On Tuesday, news came out that Percy Sledge had passed away at the age of 74. Then on Friday, word spread that Johnny Kemp had died at the age of 55 (or 56, depending on your source).
Sledge, of course is most famous for one of the all-time soul classics of the 1960s, the immortal “When A Man Loves A Woman.” That song will be sung as long as men fall in love with women who seem to do them wrong, and the man just can’t see it. While many others have covered the song (including a Michael Bolton cover that was a huge pop hit, but was mocked in some quarters mercilessly), it is Sledge’s version that stands the test of time. And though it may seem like it, he wasn’t a one-hit wonder—several other songs, including the great “Take Time To Know Her,” also hit the R&B top ten. But it is for “When A Man Loves A Woman” that Sledge will always be remembered.
Kemp may not have had a song quite as titanic as the one Sledge is famous for, but those of us who came of age in the 1980s will always remember “Just Got Paid.” It was one of the early “new jack swing” cuts that would soon run over R&B in the late 1980s, and it was produced by Teddy Riley, one of the genre’s architects. And while that is Kemp’s most famous single, he had three other top 25 R&B hits. But most of us will always remember (and still sing on payday Fridays) Kemp’s biggest hit.
May these two gentlemen who gave us two memorable classics (and a few other notable songs as well) rest in peace.