BAKER, Louisiana (AP) -- Percy Sledge was remembered for phenomenal talent and extraordinary kindness during a Tuesday funeral service marked by warm reminiscences from fellow musicians, family members and friends he made during a five-decade career that launched with his first and biggest hit, "When a Man Loves a Woman."
"Heaven's choir just got a whole lot more soul," said Rev. Dane Blankenship, a Baton Rouge area pastor and hospice chaplain who spent time with Sledge during his final days.
Sledge, an Alabama native who lived much of his life with second wife Rosa in Baton Rouge, died last week at age 74 after battling liver cancer.
An upbeat spiritual from a trio of gospel singers set the tone for what was billed as a celebration of Sledge's life at Bethany Church in Baker, near Baton Rouge.
Preachers from the Muscle Shoals, Alabama, area, where Sledge's signature song was recorded in 1966, read Bible verses. Performers included his daughter Sanricca, who sang a Whitney Houston song, and son Howell, who sang a hymn.
Testimonials came from his children and from friends he made in and out of the music business.
"There's not a kinder person in the world. There's not a more giving person in the world and there's not a smile like that in the world anywhere," said Alabama record producer David Johnson, who met Sledge in 1966 and worked on a recent gospel album with him.
"I'll love him until I'm up there in heaven with him."
Sledge's hits included "Warm and Tender Love" and "Take Time to Know Her." But "When a Man Loves a Woman" -- his first hit -- became a standard that sustained his long touring career in the U.S., Europe and South Africa and led to his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It was the first No. 1 hit from Muscle Shoals, and the first gold record for Atlantic Records.