Bill Withers

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Bill Withers, 1976

Bill Withers (born July 4, 1938 as William Harrison Withers, Jr. in Slabfork , West Virginia , † March 30, 2020 in Los Angeles ) was an American singer and songwriter . Withers made his international breakthrough in 1971 with the song Ain't No Sunshine , which he also composed .


Withers was born in the mining town of Slabfork in 1938. His parents divorced when he was three years old. He then lived temporarily with his mother Mattie Rose in Beckley . His father, William Harrison Withers Sr., served in a Baptist church and was a treasurer of the United Mine Workers of America ; he died when Withers was 13 years old. At 17, Withers Jr. joined the US Army, where he served in the Middle East for nine years . During this time he began to write songs. In 1967 he moved to Los Angeles to pursue a professional musician career. First he recorded demo tapes - one of these tapes led to a contract with the Hollywood- based record label Sussex Records . His debut album Just as I Am was produced by Booker T. Jones and was released in January 1971. It reached number 35 on the Billboard 200 . The success of the first single Ain't No Sunshine was far greater . It placed third on the Billboard Hot 100 and earned Withers a Grammy the following year .

His second album Still Bill (1972), which he produced himself during a tour break , reached number 1 in the USA. It contained the hits Lean on Me ( # 1 in the US ) and Use Me (# 2). In October 1972 he recorded a live album at Carnegie Hall . His mother died in December. Withers married in early 1972, but divorced the following year. Until the late 1970s he continued to release albums regularly, from 1975 on with Columbia Records . He had another success in 1977 with Lovely Day . Since the early 1980s, he has increasingly worked with other artists, such as the Crusaders . His 1981 song Just the Two of Us , recorded with Grover Washington, Jr. , reached number 2 on the Billboard charts and earned Withers his second Grammy in 1982. His last album Watching You, Watching Me was released in 1985, after which he withdrew more and more from the public. In 2004 he worked on the album License to Chill of Jimmy Buffett with.

Withers had been married for a second time since 1976. He had two children. At the South by Southwest Festival on March 18, 2009, a documentary entitled Still Bill about Withers' current life celebrated its world premiere . The film had been in planning and production for eleven years . In addition to Withers himself, Cornel West and Sting also had their say.

Withers died of heart complications in Los Angeles in the spring of 2020 at the age of 81.

Cover versions and samples

Withers' songs have been covered countless times, both shortly after their release and still today in different genres; many were sampled in rap songs . Ain't No Sunshine was recorded in over 350 versions, including by Michael Jackson , Sting , Isaac Hayes , Tom Jones and the Lighthouse Family for the film Notting Hill . It was used as a sample by Tupac Shakur and Big Daddy Kane , for example . 18 of the covers were released together on one CD in 2006. Gim published German-language versions in 2002 with Mein Tag, mein Licht , Stefan Gwildis 2003 with All Appearances You're You and Yvonne Catterfeld 2006, also with Mein Tag, mein Licht.

Lovely Day was also reinterpreted very often , for example by Luther Vandross with Busta Rhymes and Diana Ross . Samples were used in songs by DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince and Twista (featuring Anthony Hamilton ). With the cover version of Lean on Me by Club Nouveau , he won his third Grammy as a songwriter in 1988. Use Me was covered by Mick Jagger & Lenny Kravitz and Fiona Apple and sampled by UGK . Gladys Knight & the Pips , for whom Withers wrote intermittent songs, Creative Source, whose 11-minute funk version was sampled by LL Cool J , and Me'shell Ndegeocello covered Who Is He (And What Is He to You) . Grandma's Hands was covered by Barbra Streisand and used by BLACKstreet for her hit No Diggity . Just the Two of Us was interpreted by Will Smith , Tupac and Eminem . The German jazz-rap formation Jazzkantine covered Use Me and Ain't No Sunshine . Al Jarreau released an album made up entirely of Withers tracks in 1998. José James , American jazz and R&B singer, played a Bill Withers tribute tour in 2018 on the occasion of Bill Withers' 80th birthday; he published some covers of Withers titles.


Studio albums

year title Top ranking, total weeks, awardChart placementsChart placements
(Year, title, rankings, weeks, awards, notes)
DE DE AT AT CH CH UK UK US US R&B R&BTemplate: chart table / maintenance / charts non-existent
1971 Just as I Am - - CH91 (1 week)
- US39 (33 weeks)
R&B5 (38 weeks)
First published: May 1971
Chart entry in CH only in 2020
Producer: Booker T. Jones
1972 Still Bill - - - - US4th

(43 weeks)US
R&B1 (38 weeks)
First published: May 1972
Producers: Benorce Blackman, Bill Withers,
James Gadson, Melvin Dunlap, Ray Jackson
1974 + 'Justments - - - - US67 (21 weeks)
R&B7 (34 weeks)
First published: March 1974
Producers: Bill Withers, James Gadson, Melvin Dunlap
1975 Making Music - - - - US81 (15 weeks)
R&B7 (19 weeks)
First published: October 1975
Producers: Bill Withers, Larry Nash
1976 Naked & Warm - - - - US169 (4 weeks)
R&B41 (4 weeks)
First published: October 1976
Producer: Bill Withers
1977 menagerie - - - UK27 (4 weeks)

(26 weeks)US
R&B18 (23 weeks)
First published: October 1977
Producers: Bill Withers, Clarence McDonald,
Keni Burke, Clifford Coulter
1979 'Bout Love - - - - US134 (9 weeks)
R&B50 (5 weeks)
First published: February 1979
Producer: Paul Hurriah
1985 Watching You, Watching Me - - - UK60 (1 week)
US143 (8 weeks)
R&B42 (25 weeks)
First published: May 1985
Producers: Bill Withers, Denny Diante, Don Freeman,
Larry Carlton , Michel Colombier , Ralph MacDonald

gray hatching : no chart data available for this year



  • Stambler, Irwin: The Encyclopedia of Pop, Rock and Soul . 3rd revised edition, New York City, New York: St. Martin's Press, 1989, pp. 745f - ISBN 0-312-02573-4 .

Web links


  1. ^ "Ain't No Sunshine" singer Bill Withers is dead. In: Welt Online , April 3, 2020. Accessed April 3, 2020.
  2. For more information on this title, see Bronson, Fred: The Billboard Book of Number One Hits . 3rd revised and enlarged edition. New York City, New York: Billboard Publications, 1992, p. 315
  3. : "2009 SXSW Shorts Lineup, Plus Additional Features Announced!" ( Memento of April 21, 2009 in the Internet Archive ), February 12, 2009
  4. "Reel Talks: Alex Vlack & Damani Baker On Their SXSW World Premiere, Still Bill " ( Memento of 18 June 2009 at the Internet Archive ), March 18, 2009
  5. information on Still Bill
  6. : Biography of Bill Withers
  7. Chart sources: DE AT CH UK US
  8. ^ Joel Whitburn : Top R&B Albums 1965–1998, ISBN 0-89820-134-9 .