Percy Sledge worked in a series of blue-collar jobs in the fields in Leighton, Alabama before taking a job as an orderly at Colbert County Hospital in Sheffield, Alabama. Through the mid 1960s, he toured the Southeast with the Esquires Combo on weekends while working at the hospital during the week. A former patient and mutual friend of Sledge and record producer Quin Ivy introduced the two. An audition followed, and Sledge was signed to a recording contract. 
Sledge’s soulful voice was perfect for the series of soul ballads produced by Ivy and Marlin Greene, which rock critic Dave Marsh called «emotional classics for romantics of all ages. »
«When a Man Loves a Woman» was Sledge’s first song recorded under the contract, and was released in 1966. The song’s inspiration came when Sledge’s girlfriend left him for a modeling career after he was laid off from construction job in late 1965.  It reached #1 in the U. S. and went on to become an international hit. The song was also the first gold record released by Atlantic Records. The soul anthem became the cornerstone of Sledge’s career, and was followed by «Warm and Tender Love» (Covered by UK songstress Elkie Brooks in 1981), «It Tears Me Up», «Take Time to Know Her» (his second biggest U. S. hit, reaching #11), and «Cover Me».
Sledge charted with «I’ll Be Your Everything» and «Sunshine» during the 1970s, and has become an international concert favorite throughout the world, especially in the Netherlands, Germany, and on the African continent, and South Africa in particular.
Sledge’s career enjoyed a renaissance in the 1980s when «When a Man Loves a Woman» re-entered the Top 10 in the UK Singles Chart after being used in a Levi’s commercial.
In 1994, Saul Davis and Barry Goldberg produced his new album, the Grammy nominated Blue Night, which featured Bobby Womack, Steve Cropper, and Mick Taylor among others.
In 2004, Davis and Goldberg also produced Shining Through the Rain.
Sledge was an inaugural Rhythm and Blues Foundation Pioneer Award honoree in 1989. In 2005, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
In May 2007, Percy Sledge was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame for his contributions to the state’s music. Sledge is also an inductee of the Delta Music Museum in Ferriday, Louisiana.