Bill Withers

  • R&B/soul artist born in 1938 in Slab Fork West Virginia. Died in March 2020 from heart complications.
  • Withers served in the Navy for 9 years. While in the service, he became interested in writing and performing songs, particularly R&B music.
  • After leaving the Navy, he moved to Los Angeles in 1967 to try to make it in music. He worked on an assembly line for several companies, and during free time, he made demo tapes with his own money, and performed at night clubs.
  • His demo caught the attention of a record label, and he was signed. His debut album, Just As I Am, was released in 1971. The cover of the album shows Withers with his lunch pail at a job site. It contained the single Ain’t No Sunshine – the song peaked at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It was ranked at #285 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, and it won a Grammy Award for Best R&B Song.
  • His second album, Still Bill, was even more successful. There were 2 singles – Lean On Me hit #1 and sold over 3 million copies (#208 on the Rolling Stones list), and Use Me hit #2 and sold over 1 million copies.
  • Now a star, Withers released 5 studio albums between 1974 and 1978. Songs from these albums were not as popular as his earlier work, though 1977’s Lovely Day made it to #6 on the R&B chart. Love this song – happy funkadelic music!
  • He started to work with other artists in 1977. His biggest hit as a collaboration was Just the Two of Us, recorded with jazz saxophonist Grover Washington Jr, which hit #2 on the Hot 100 chart and won a Grammy award.
  • His final album was released in 1985. By this time, he was frustrated with the record industry, and no longer enjoyed touring. As such, he retired from the music business.
  • He did some occasional work in the industry since 1985. He won a third Grammy in 1988 as songwriter for Club Nouveau’s cover of Lean On Me, and in 2007, the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. He contributed 2 songs to Jimmy Buffett’s 2004 album Licensed to Chill. 
  • In 2015, Withers was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
  • The early hits of Bill Withers were classics – I loved his laid back sound. His songs were catchy, and I always sang along with them – and still do when I hear them, along with everyone else who hears them. Listen and watch Withers performing Ain’t Know Sunshine – “and I know, I know, I know, I know…..”

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