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Bill Withers

Songwriter/singer/guitarist Bill Withers is best remembered for the classic "Lean on Me" and his other million-selling singles "Ain't No Sunshine" and "Use Me," but he has a sizable cache of great songs to his credit. Al Jarreau recorded an entire CD of Withers' songs on Tribute to Bill Withers (Culture Press 1998). His popular radio-aired LP track from Still Bill, "Who Is He? (And What Is He to You?)," was a 1974 R&B hit for Creative Source.

Born July 4, 1938, in Slab Fork, WV, Withers was the youngest of six children. His father died when he was a child and he was raised by his mother and grandmother. After a nine-year stint in the Navy, Withers moved to Los Angeles to pursue a music career in 1967. He recorded demos at night while working at the Boeing aircraft company where he made toilet seats. His recording career began after being introduced to Clarence Avant, president of Sussex Records.

Stax Records stalwart Booker T. Jones produced his debut album, Just As I Am (with some co-production by Al Jackson, Jr.), which included his first charting single, "Ain't No Sunshine" that went gold and made it to number six R&B and number three pop in summer 1971 and won a Grammy as Best R&B Song. Its follow-up, "Grandma Hands," peaked at number 18 R&B in fall 1971. The song was later covered by the Staple Singers and received airplay as a track from their 1973 Stax LP Be What You Are. "Just As I Am" featured lead guitar by Stephen Stills and hit number five R&B in summer 1971.

Withers wrote "Lean on Me" based on his experiences growing up in a West Virginia coal mining town. Times were hard and when a neighbor needed something beyond their means, the rest of the community would chip in and help. He came up with the chord progression while noodling around on his new Wurlitzer electric piano. The sound of the chords reminded Withers of the hymns that he heard at church while he was growing up. On the session for "Lean on Me," members of the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band ("Express Yourself," "Loveland") were used: drummer James Gadson, keyboardist Ray Jackson, guitarist Benorce Blackman (co-wrote with Withers "The Best You Can" from Making Music), and bassist Melvin Dunlop. His second gold single, "Lean on Me," landed at number one R&B and number one pop for three weeks on Billboard's charts in summer 1972. It was included on his Still Bill album which went gold, holding the number one R&B spot for six weeks and hitting number four pop in spring 1972. "Lean on Me" has became a standard with hit covers by U.K. rock band Mud and Club Nouveau. "Lean on Me" was also the title theme of a 1989 movie starring Morgan Freeman. Still Bill also included "Use Me" (gold, number two R&B for two weeks and number two pop for two weeks in fall 1972) .

Withers' Sussex catalog also included Bill Withers Live at Carnegie Hall, 'Justments, and The Best of Bill Withers. Withers contributed "Better Days" to the soundtrack of the Bill Cosby 1971 western Man And Boy, released on Sussex. There was a duet single with Bobby Womack on United Artists, "It's All Over Now," from summer 1975.

After a legal battle with Sussex, Withers signed with Columbia Records. Columbia later bought his Sussex masters when the label went out of business. Withers was briefly married actress Denise Nicholas (ABC-TV's Room 222 and the 1972 horror film Blacula) in the early '70s. His releases on Columbia were Making Music ("Make Love to Your Mind," number ten R&B), which hit number seven R&B in late 1975; Naked and Warm; Menagerie ("Lovely Day," a number six R&B hit), which went gold in 1977; and 'Bout Love from spring 1979.

Teaming with Elektra Records artist Grover Washington, Jr., Withers sang the crystalline ballad "Just the Two of Us," written by Withers, Ralph MacDonald, and William Salter. It went to number three R&B and held the number two pop spot for three weeks in early 1981. "Just the Two of Us" was redone with hilarious effect in the Mike Myers movie Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, released in summer 1999. Withers teamed with MacDonald for MacDonald's Polydor single "In the Name of Love" in summer 1984.

Withers' last charting LP was Watching You, Watching Me in spring 1985. He occasionally did dates with Grover Washington, Jr. during the '90s. His songs and recordings have been used as both the source of numerous covers (Aaron Neville's "Use Me") and sampled by a multitude of hip-hop/rap groups. Withers resurfaced in the 21st century, playing concerts, and having his albums reissued in various countries. He is also the subject of the 2010 bio-documentary Still Bill, by filmmakers Damani Baker and Alex Vlack. ~ Ed Hogan, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: Ain’t No Sunshine

Comments

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dancing in the kitchen, that's it!!
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Ever time I hear this song I want to dance naked with my girl
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Bill's vocals and the great sax of Grover Washington Jr..... awesome pairing....
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EL CAJONe* 6661904
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I ts been raining like crazy here... Summertime in San D13go.iSTILL LOVEBRATONEs v A L W A Y S * JUSTCANTLETH I M K N O W T H A T .
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how did this come up on dupstep station?! Still a keeper tho
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Sexiest song ever.
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dragonlady60 8 8
Love Bill
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Lean On Me: Now THIS song is the meaning of life. This is exactly how, in my opinion, everyone may want to think about living. It's called PEACE, LOVE, AND HAVE FUN and Share it for Pete's sakes.
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The man and his music, awesome!
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Love his music and voice!!!!
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Nice!!!
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How can you tell if a duck is into R&B?
.....
His Bill Withers.....
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Why is he in the Hall of Fame and not worthy musicians who play rock instead of R&B?
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This man must have had some serious women issues...mis e r y makes for good music.
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brian31514
Slab Fork WV gave us a handsome red musical genius!
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I can't write left handed
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I living this song I am always sad
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Lean On Me!!! By The Way, Happy birthday and Independence Day for the U.S. Because it's 4th of July!!!
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Bill Withers leaves a smell of childhood gatherings with friends and family in my nostrils...f o r e v e r classic!
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Ain't No Sunshine(7" Total Eclipse Mix) is tight as Hell!!! Especially w head phones on!! Kick that ish Bill!!!!
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Bill withers... Finally inducted !!!!!! Well deserved and way overdue... Amazing artist. Congrats mr withers!!!!! ! !
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For those that feel the music in our souls Mr Withers is one of the finest and they are many thanks
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great tune!
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It's such ashame, most of these guys are gone now. This was/is real deep music. How music is supposed to be.
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Real music
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Grandma's hands
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jwbgreen
Don't read this because it actually works. You will be kissed on the nearest Friday by the love of your life. However if you don't post this you will be injured(but won't die) in two days now you started reading this so don't stop. Post this on at least five other songs in the next 143 minutes when your done press f6 and your lovers name will appear on the screen with big letter this is so scary because it actually works
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Biil you are de best
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I love it
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All of Mr Withers songs are impeccable! A true genius!
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Wonderful Singer, song writer, musician. His music touches you to your very soul. So thankful he was finally recognized and inducted into the Rock N Roll music hall of Fame yesterday... Its about time, his songs will be remembered and rerecorded for many, many years to come. Thank you Bill Withers for your mark on this wonderful world of music ❤! Absolutely love your sound and your music... I have to admit I prefer hearing your songs sung by you the Best!
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This man is deep in his song meaning and sound
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Grandma's hands. Wow. Everytime!
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An all-time classic
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Rkl basketball Tony
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My favorite song by Bill!
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danni3143
Lean on me please
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He's in the rock n roll hall of fame
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Congrats b
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Would love to hear Use me
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Withers has 3-4 of greatest songs of my list of favorites.
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danni3143
"
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danni3143
This guy looks like the Ben Carson in the move "Gifted Hands
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Don't. Get. Better. Than. This!!!!
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Wow nine years in the Navy and born on the 4th of July. What a great patriot and singer too!
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i miss gil so much he qaw the closest i could ever get to sanity. he went home and with him he took humor,enligh t m e n t and song so he would have gifts for god. i love my brother immensely and forever and i know how brian jackson must feel.
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I love this song
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I saw the bio-document a r y and was glad to see that Mr. Withers is still performing. God bless you, Bill.
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