Bill Withers Part One
Their’s “Ain’t No Sunshine” when I don’t see a new album of Bill Withers, but until I see it, I’m going to do Bill Withers Part One, for now.
William Harrison Withers Jr. (born on July 4, 1938) is an American singer-songwriter and musician who performed and recorded from 1970 until 1985. Herecorded several major hits, including “Lean on Me“, “Ain’t No Sunshine“, “UseMe“, “Just the Two of Us“, “Lovely Day“, and “Grandma‘s Hands“. Withers won three Grammy Awards and was nominated for four more. His life was the subject of the2009 documentary film Still Bill. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall ofFame in 2015.
Withers in 1976
William Harrison Withers Jr
Born July 4, 1938 (age 80).
Slab Fork, West Virginia, U.S.
Soul R & B smooth soul blues funk.
Musician singer songwriter record producer.
Grover Washington Jr
Bill Withers was born in the small coal-mining town of Slab Fork, West Virginia.He was born with a stutter and has said he had a hard time fitting in. Raised innearby Beckley, he was 13 years old when his father died. Withers enlisted withthe United States Navy at the age of 18 and served for nine years, during whichtime he overcame his stutter and became interested in singing and writing songs.
He left the Navy in 1965. Using the $250 he received from selling his furniture toIBM co-worker Ron Sierra, he relocated to Los Angeles in 1967 to start a musicalcareer. Withers worked as an assembler for several different companies, includingDouglas Aircraft Corporation, while recording demo tapes with his own money,shopping them around and performing in clubs at night. When he debuted with thesong “Ain’t No Sunshine“, he refused to resign from his job because he believedthe music business was a fickle industry.
During early 1970, Withers‘ demonstration tape was auditioned favorably byClarence Avant, owner of Sussex Records. Avant signed Withers to a record deal andassigned former Stax Records stalwart Booker T. Jones to produce Withers‘ firstalbum. Four three-hour recording sessions were planned for the album, but fundingcaused the album to be recorded in three sessions with a six-month break betweenthe second and final sessions. Just as I Am was released in 1971 with the tracks,“Ain’t No Sunshine“ and “Grandma‘s Hands“ as singles. The album features StephenStills playing lead guitar. On the cover of the album, Withers is pictured at hisjob at Weber Aircraft in Burbank, California, holding his lunch box.
The album was a success, and Withers began touring with a band assembled frommembers of the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band: drummer James Gadson, guitaristBenorce Blackmon, keyboardist Ray Jackson, and bassist Melvin Dunlap.
At the 14th annual Grammy Awards, on Tuesday, March 14, 1972, Withers won a GrammyAward for Best R&B Song for “Ain’t No Sunshine“. The track had already sold overone million copies and was awarded a gold disc by the RIAA in September 1971.
During a hiatus from touring, Withers recorded his second album, Still Bill. Thesingle, “Lean on Me“ went to number one the week of July 8, 1972. It was Withers‘second gold single with confirmed sales in excess of three million. His follow-up,“Use Me“ released in August 1972, became his third million seller, with theR.I.A.A. gold disc award taking place on October 12, 1972. His performance atCarnegie Hall on October 6, 1972, was recorded, and released as the live albumBill Withers, Live at Carnegie Hall on November 30, 1972. In 1974, Withersrecorded the album +‘ Justments. Due to a legal dispute with the Sussex company,Withers was unable to record for some time thereafter.
“ Withers sang for a black nouveau middle class that didn’t yet understand howprecarious its status was. Warm, raunchy, secular, common, he never strove forAshford & Simpson-style sophistication, which hardly rendered him immune to thetemptations of sudden wealth— cross-class attraction is what gives ‘Use Me‘ itskick. He didn’t accept that there had to be winners and losers, that fellowshipwas a luxury the newly successful couldn’t afford. Soon sudden wealth took itstoll on him while economic clampdown took its toll on his social context.“.
— Robert Christgau.
During this time, he wrote and produced two songs on the Gladys Knight & the Pips record I Feel a Song, and in October 1974 performed in concert together with James Brown, Etta James, and B.B. King in Zaire four weeks prior to the historic Rumblein the Jungle fight between Foreman and Ali. Footage of his performance wasincluded in the 1996 documentary film When We Were Kings, and he is heard on theaccompanying soundtrack. Other footage of his performance is included in the 2008documentary film Soul Power, which is based on archival footage of the 1974 Zaireconcert.