Bill Withers

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Bill Withers

Bill Withers

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Bill Withers: Official SiteBill Withers: Official Site

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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 Folk, 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. -- Ed Hogan, All Music Guide


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1971Man and Boy
1971Just as I Am
1972Still Bill
1973Live at Carnegie Hall
1975Making Music
1976Naked & Warm
1979'Bout Love
1985Watching You Watching Me
1997Ain't No Sunshine
1999Top Bill
2001Super Hits


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1971 Man and Boy

1971 Just as I Am

01. Harlem
02. Ain't No Sunshine
03. Grandma's Hands
04. Sweet Wanomi
05. Everybody's Talking
06. Do It Good
07. Hope We'll Be Happier
08. Let It Be
09. I'm Her Daddy
10. In My Heart
11. Moanin' And Groanin'
12. Better Off Dead

1972 Still Bill

01. Lonely Town, Lonely Street
02. Let Me in Your Life
03. Who Is He (And What Is He to You)?
04. Use Me
05. Lean on Me
06. Kissing My Love
07. I Don't Know
08. Another Day to Run
09. I Don't Want You on My Mind
10. Take It All in and Check It All Out

1973 Live at Carnegie Hall

01. Use Me
02. Friend of Mine
03. Ain't No Sunshine
04. Grandma's Hands
05. World Keeps Going Around
06. Let Me in Your Life
07. Better off Dead
08. For My Friend
09. I Can't Write Left-Handed
10. Lean on Me
11. Lonely Town, Lonely Street
12. Hope She'll Be Happier
13. Let Us Love
14. Harlem/Cold Baloney

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1974 'Justments

01. You
02. The Same Love That Made Me Laugh
03. Stories
04. Green Grass
05. Ruby Lee
06. Heartbreak Road
07. Can We Pretend
08. Liza
09. Make a Smile for Me
10. Railroad Man

1975 Making Music

01. I Wish You Well
02. The Best You Can
03. Make Love to Your Mind
04. I Love You
05. Dawn
06. She's Lonely
07. Sometimes a Song
08. Paint Your Pretty Picture
09. Family Table
10. Don't You Want Stay
11. Hello Like Before

1976 Naked & Warm

1. Close to Me
2. Naked and Warm
3. Oh Heaven
4. Where Are You?
5. Dreams
6. If I Didn't Mean You Well
7. I'll Be With You
8. City of the Angels
9. My Imagination

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1977 Menagerie

1. Lovely Day
2. I Want to Spend the Night
3. Lovely Night for Dancing
4. Then You Smile at Me
5. She Wants to (Get on Down)
6. It Ain't Because of Me, Baby
7. Tender Things
8. Wintertime
9. Let Me Be the One You Need

1979 'Bout Love

1. All Because of You
2. Dedicated to You My Love
3. Don't Make It Better
4. You Got the Stuff
5. Look to Each Other for Love
6. Love
7. Love Is
8. Memories Are That Way

1985 Watching You Watching Me

01. Oh Yeah
02. Something That Turns You On
03. Don't Make Me Wait
04. Heart in Your Life
05. Watching You Watching Me
06. We Could Be Sweet Lovers
07. You Just Can't Smile It Away
08. Steppin' Right Along
09. Whatever Happens
10. You Try to Find a Love

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1997 Ain't No Sunshine

01. Ain't No Sunshine
02. Love Is
03. Heart in Your Life
04. Steppin' Right Along
05. Kissing My Love
06. Grandma's Hands
07. Who Is He (And What Is He to You)?
08. Lovely Day
09. Hello Like Before
10. Watching You Watching Me
11. Then You Smile at Me
12. You Try to Find a Love
13. Whatever Happens
14. Let Me Be the One You Need
15. All Because of You

1999 Top Bill

01. Lean on Me
02. Don't Make Me Wait
03. Harlem
04. Who Is He (And What Is He to You)?
05. Lonely Town, Lonely Street
06. Ain't No Sunshine
07. Better off Dead
08. Another Day to Run
09. I'm Her Daddy
10. Watching You Watching Me

2001 Super Hits

01. Ain't No Sunshine
02. Who Is He (And What Is He To You)
03. Use Me
04. Harlem
05. Lean On Me
06. It Ain't Because Of My Baby
07. Steppin' Right Along
08. Heart In Your Life
09. Memories Are That Way
10. City Of Angels

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