Two major artists passed away recently: soul singer, Percy Sledge and 80’s r & b singer, Johnny Kemp.
Percy Sledge, who was born in 1940 in Leighton, Alabama, was a hospital orderly when he started singing at local clubs and frat parties at universities. His epic love ballad, When A Man Loves A Woman, was a tune Sledge said he hummed to himself for years–he said even when he was younger and working the cotton fields–before penning the lyrics during his early singing days. The song is said to be about his girlfriend at the time leaving him for a modeling career after Sledge was laid off from a construction job.
It was at a frat party performance that he was casually offered the opportunity to record his love ballad at Norala Sound Studio in Sheffield, Alabama in 1966. The song was of course a huge hit, and Sledge continued to have a career with follow-up hits like Warm and Tender Love and Tear Me Up, and to tour extensively in Europe and South Africa up until his death last week.
Listen to When A Man Loves A Woman and try not to feel anything. You can’t, right?
I was shocked to hear of Johnny Kemp’s untimely death several days ago in Jamaica. Kemp, who is originally from the Bahamas, moved to the States in 1979 with his band, Kinky Fox. His breakout hit, and definitely his most memorable, was Just Got Paid, which hit #1 on the Billboard Top 100 Chart in 1988.
Just Got Paid came out during my New York City clubbing days, and it was the feel-good dance anthem of the day. When I revisited the song’s video this past weekend, I realized I loved it then and still do because it totally captures the essence of late-eighties NYC energy, and no matter where you lived, you saw yourself as part of that energy–that feeling of “yeah, I just got paid, it’s Friday, it’s the weekend, and I’m putting on my coolest, sexiest, clubwear–my biggest, dangliest earrings, highest heels that I can still dance in, my black spandex skirt–and grabbing my wallet, and heading out the door to dance, dance, dance.
It is sad that Kemp, 55 this year, mysteriously passed away en route to perform on a cruise ship in Jamaica with Teddy Riley who produced the famous hit. But, Kemp’s classic hit, and his energetic performance won’t be forgotten.
Photo credit, Percy Sledge: www.artspecialday.com
Photo credit, Johnny Kemp: www.timorworld.com