1938 – Singer/songwriter Bill Withers is born in S…

Bill Withers

1938 – Singer/songwriter Bill Withers is born in Slab Fork, W.Va.

Bill Withers (born July 4, 1938 in Slab Fork, West Virginia) is an American singer-songwriter who performed and recorded from the late 1960s until the mid 1980s. Some of his best-known songs are “Ain’t No Sunshine,” “Use Me,” “Lovely Day,” “Lean on Me”, “Grandma’s Hands” and “Just the Two of Us”.


Early life

Bill Withers was born the youngest of nine children in the small coal-mining town of Slab Fork, West Virginia. Raised in nearby Beckley, West Virginia, he was thirteen when his father died. He joined the United States Navy at seventeen and served for nine years, during which time he became interested in singing. He began writing songs to fill a need for lyrics that expressed what he felt. Following his discharge from the Navy in 1965, he moved to Los Angeles in 1967 to pursue a career in music.

Withers worked assembling toilets for Boeing 747’s, while recording demo tapes he shopped around and performing in the juke joints during the night. When he debuted on the music scene with “Ain’t No Sunshine” he refused to give up his job because of his belief that the music business was a fickle industry and that he was still a novice compared to other working acts like The Temptations or Sammy Davis, Jr.[citation needed]

Sussex Records

In early 1970, Withers’ demo tape was received favorably by Clarence Avant of Sussex Records. Avant signed Withers to a record deal and assigned Booker T. Jones to produce Withers’ debut album. Four three-hour studio sessions were planned to record the album, but funding caused the album to be recorded in three sessions with a six-month break between the second and final sessions. Just As I Am was released in 1971 with the tracks “Harlem” and “Ain’t No Sunshine” as singles.

The album was a hit and Withers began touring with a band assembled from members of The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band: drummer James Gadson, guitarist Bernoce Blackmon, keyboardist Ray Jackson, and bassist Melvin Dunlap. During a break in touring, Withers recorded his second album, Still Bill. The single “Lean on Me” went to number one the week of July 8, 1972.

A 1973 performance was recorded for the live album Bill Withers, Live at Carnegie Hall. It was followed by the 1974 album +’Justments.

After +’Justments, Withers became involved in a legal dispute with the Sussex label and was unable to record. During this time, he wrote and produced two songs on the Gladys Knight & the Pips record I Feel A Song and performed in concert as part of the historic Ali/Foreman fight in Zaire. Footage of his performance appeared in the 1996 documentary film When We Were Kings and the accompanying soundtrack.

Columbia Records

Withers signed with Columbia Records in 1975. His first release with the label was Making Music, Making Friends, which had the single She’s Lonely and was featured in the movie Looking for Mr. Goodbar. The next three years saw an album released each year with Naked & Warm (1976), Menagerie (1977) and Bout Love (1978).

Due to problems with Columbia, he focused on joint projects for several years, including the multiple Grammy-nominated Just the Two of Us, which he performed with jazz saxophonist Grover Washington, Jr., Soul Shadows with The Crusaders, and In The Name Of Love with Ralph MacDonald, which was nominated for a vocal performance Grammy.

His final new release was 1985’s Watching You, Watching Me, which featured the Top 40 R&B single “Oh Yeah”. He hired a lawyer and got out of his contract with Columbia and retired from recording after that album, although he continued performing live for some time. In 1988, a remixed version of “Lovely Day”, titled “Lovely Day (Sunshine Mix)” and remixed by Ben Liebrand, reached the Top 10 in the UK, prompting Withers to perform on the long running Top of the Pops that year.

After retiring, Withers focused on parenting with his wife Marcia, who handles the day-to-day running of his publishing company. In 1987, he received his ninth Grammy nomination and third Grammy as a songwriter for the re-recording of Lean On Me by Club Nouveau.

Following the reissues of Still Bill in 2003 and Just As I am in 2005, there was speculation of previously unreleased material being issued as a new album. Tapes of his unreleased material were delivered from Sony to Withers in 2006.



* 1971: Just As I Am (Sussex) – US #35, R&B #9
* 1972: Still Bill (Sussex) – US #4, R&B #1
* 1973: Live at Carnegie Hall (Sussex) – US #63, R&B #6
* 1974: +’Justments (Sussex) – US #67, R&B #7
* 1975: The Best of Bill Withers (Sussex) – US #182, R&B #33
* 1975: Making Music – (Columbia) – US #81, R&B #7
* 1976: Naked & Warm (Columbia) – US #69, R&B #41
* 1978: Menagerie (Columbia) – US #93, R&B #16
* 1979: Bout Love (Columbia) – US #134, R&B #50
* 1981: Bill Withers’ Greatest Hits (Columbia) – US #183, R&B #58
* 1985: Watching You, Watching Me (Columbia) – US #143, R&B #42
* 1998: The Best of Bill Withers – lovely day (Sony Music Entertainment)
* 2005: Lovely Day: The Very Best of Bill Withers (Legacy)
* 2007: Best of (2007)


* 1971: “Ain’t No Sunshine” – US #3, R&B #6
* 1971: “Grandma’s Hands” – US #42, R&B #18
* 1972: “Lean on Me” – US #1, R&B #1
* 1972: “Use Me”- US #2, R&B #2
* 1973: “Friend Of Mine” – US #80, R&B #25
* 1973: “Kissing My Love” – US #31, R&B #12
* 1973: “Let Us Love” – US #47, R&B #17
* 1974: “You” – R&B #15
* 1974: “The Same Love That Made Me Laugh” – US #50, R&B #10
* 1975: “Heartbreak Road” – US #89, R&B #13
* 1975: “It’s All Over Now” – R&B #68
* 1976: “I Wish You Well” – R&B #54
* 1976: “If I Didn’t Mean You Well” – R&B #74
* 1976: “Make Love To Your Mind” – US #76, R&B #10
* 1977: “Close To Me” – R&B #88
* 1978: “Lovely Day” – US #30, R&B #6
* 1978: “Lovely Night For Dancing” – R&B #75
* 1979: “Don’t It Make It Better” – R&B #30
* 1979: “You Got The Stuff (Part 1)” – R&B #85
* 1981: “Just the Two of Us” (with Grover Washington, Jr.) – US #2, R&B #3
* 1985: “Oh Yeah” – R&B #22
* 1985: “Something That Turns You On” – R&B #46


* 1972: NAACP Image Award for Male Singer of The Year
NAACP Image Award for Single Record of the Year
* 1972: Grammy Award for Best Rhythm & Blues Song, “Ain’t No Sunshine”
* 1982: Grammy Award for Best Rhythm & Blues Song, “Just the Two of Us” (with songwriters Ralph MacDonald and William Salter)
* 1988: Grammy Award for Best Rhythm & Blues Song, “Lean on Me” performed by Club Nouveau
* 2005: Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee
* 2006: ASCAP Rhythm & Soul Heritage award
* 2007: Inducted into West Virginia Music Hall of Fame.

Cover versions and sampling

Withers’ songs have been covered by many artists across multiple genres. Notable versions include:

* 1972: “Ain’t No Sunshine”, Michael Jackson UK #8
* 1972: “Use Me”, Fred Wesley & The J.B.’s (People – PE616)
* 1974: “Let me in Your Life”, Asha Puthli
* 1974: “Grandma’s Hands”, Barbra Streisand
* 1976: “Lean On Me”, Mud; reached #7 in the UK pop charts
* 1977: “The Same Love That Made Me Laugh”, Diana Ross
* 1979: “Lovely Day”, Morrissey – Mullen
* 1981: “Use Me”, Grace Jones , Blackstreet
* 1986: “Lean On Me”, Club Nouveau
* 1988: “Lovely Day (Sunshine Mix)”, remixed by Ben Liebrand
* 1988: “(We Could Be) Sweet Lovers”, The Holidaymakers (NZ soul/reggae band) NZ #1
* 1989: “Ain’t No Sunshine”, Sting
* 1991: “Ain’t No Sunshine”, Paul McCartney
* 1991: “Ain’t No Sunshine”, The Rockmelons (Australian soul/pop band) Aus #5
* 1992: “It’s Gonna Be a Lovely Day”, The S.O.U.L. S.Y.S.T.E.M. introducing Michelle Visage; reached #1 in the US Hot Dance charts
* 1993: “Ain’t No Sunshine”, Eva Cassidy
* 1996: “Who Is He (And What Is He to You)?”, Me’shell Ndegeocello
* 1998: “A Lovely Day”, Kirk Franklin & The Nu Nation.
* 1999: “Ain’t No Sunshine”, Pastor Troy
* 1999: “Ain’t No Sunshine”, Kenny Rogers
* 1999: “Ain’t No Sunshine”, David Sanborn & Sting on the Night Music television program
* 1999: “Ain’t No Sunshine”, Lighthouse Family (UK soul/pop duo)
* 2001: “Grandma’s Hands”, Ron Kenoly
* 2004: “Ain’t No Sunshine”, Over The Rhine
* 2005: “Ain’t No Sunshine”, Andy Abraham
* 2006: “Lovely Day”, Lee Ritenour
* 2007: “Lovely Day”, Diana Ross
* 2007: “Grandma’s Hands”, Jeff Lorber
* 2007: “Ain’t No Sunshine”, Emily King
* 2008: “Grandma’s Hands” & “Ain’t no Sunshine”, Phil Escobedo

“Use Me” has also been covered by Al Jarreau, Grace Jones, Japanese singer Kimiko Kasai, Hootie & the Blowfish, Mick Jagger/Lenny Kravitz, Better Than Ezra, Widespread Panic, D’Angelo, My Brightest Diamond Lindsay Mac and Fiona Apple who additionally covered “Kissing My Love” on her 1998 tour.

Several songs written by Bill Withers have been sampled in many notable songs by other artists:

* “Ain’t No Sunshine”:
o Tupac Shakur, “Soulja’s Story” (1991)
o Kid Frost, “No Sunshine” (1992)
o DMX, “No Sunshine” (2001)
* “Grandma’s Hands”
o Blackstreet featuring Dr. Dre, “No Diggity”
* “I Can’t Write Left-Handed”:
o Fatboy Slim, “Demons” (2000)
o Akon, No Sunshine
* “Just the Two of Us”
o Smif-N-Wessun, “Wrekonize (Remix)” (1995)
o Tupac Shakur, “Cause I Had To”
o Will Smith, “Just the Two of Us” (1997)
o Eminem, “Just The Two Of Us” (1997)
* “Lovely Day”:
o The S.O.U.L. S.Y.S.T.E.M. (featuring Michelle Visage), “(It’s Gonna Be) A Lovely Day” (1992)
o Will Smith and DJ Jazzy Jeff, “Lovely Daze” (released on Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince – Greatest Hits, 1998)
o T.W.D.Y (featuring Too Short), “Playa’s Holiday” (1999)
o Twista (featuring Anthony Hamilton), “Sunshine” (2004)
* Luther Vandross (featuring Busta Rhymes) Lovely Day Dance With My Father

Other songs that sample Bill Withers’s songs include:

* Blackstreet sampled “Grandma’s Hands” for their hit “No Diggity”.
* Kanye West sampled “Rosie” in the song “Roses.”
* LL Cool J sampled the Creative Source version of “Who Is He (And What Is He to You)?” in his hit single “Phenomenon” (1997).
* “Use Me” is heavily sampled by rap duo UGK for their song “Use Me Up” (1992).
* Reggae artist Red Rat sampled “Grandma’s Hands” in his song “Charlene”.
* “Same Love That Made Me Laugh” (Bill Withers) “Ain’t No Sunshine” – Covered by Maroon 5 on “Live Friday the 13th”

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