Infobox musical artist
Name = Bill Withers
| Img_capt =
Background = solo_singer
Birth_name = William Harrison Withers, Jr.
Born = birth date and age|1938|7|4
Slab Fork, West Virginia, USA
Los Angeles, California, USA
Instrument = Vocals,
Genre = soul, R&B,
Years_active = 1967-1985
Sussex Records Columbia Records
URL = http://www.billwithers.com/
Bill Withers (born
July 4, 1938) is an American singer-songwriterwho performed and recorded from 1970 until 1985. 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".
Born William Harrison Withers, Jr., Withers is the son of a
coal minerwho worked for the Slab Fork Coal Company from 1917 to 1951 and a domestic for the William Gaston Caperton family that owned the coal company. He was born in a house owned by the company on land leased from Beaver Coal Corporation, predecessor to Beaver Coal Company, Ltd, the youngest of six children in the small coal-mining unincorporated community of Slab Fork, West Virginiain Raleigh County. Wither's father, William Harrison Withers Sr. was a Baptist deaconand the treasurer for the local chapter of the United Mine Workers(UMWA). His mother, Mattie Rose ( néeGalloway), was a widow and the mother of four children when she married William Harrison Withers, Sr. Withers' parents separated in October 1941 and officially divorced in May 1942, and Withers grew up both in a company house of the Slab Fork Coal Company in Slab Fork. In October 1941, he moved in with his Aunt Carrella Galloway Briggs'. In August 1944, he finally settled with his mother in Beckley, West Virginiaand attended public school at East Park Elementary School and Stratton Junior High School in Beckley, and the colored schools in Slab Fork.
After his Aunt Carrella died in 1949, Withers formed a special relationship with his maternal grandmother, Lula Carter Galloway who came to live with his family until her death in 1953. Withers then lived with his father in Slab Fork from 1948 to 1951 and attended the local segregated school. Returning to Beckley from Slab Fork after his father became ill, Withers left school in the seventh grade after his father died, and worked several jobs, including a shoe shine boy in Beckley. On
July 15, 1951, William, Sr. died of azotemiaand chronic glomerulonephritiswhen Withers was thirteen. After his father's death, Withers lived with the family of the widow of his deceased brother Earl, Elfreida Martin. Withers suffered from chronic stuttering until age 28.
In May 1956, at the age of seventeen, Withers joined the
United States Navyand served for nine years, during which time he became interested in singing and songwriting. He began writing songs to fill a need for lyrics that expressed what he felt. Following his discharge from the Navy in July 1965, he worked in the San Jose, Californiaarea and then moved to Los Angeles in 1967 to pursue a career in music. [cite interview |last=Withers |first=Bill |subject=Bill Withers |subjectlink=Bill Withers |interviewer=Tony Cox |title=Songwriter Bill Withers and a Career Cut Short |type= |url=http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=7236327 |format= |program="News & Notes" |callsign= National Public Radio|city= |date=2007-02-07 |year= |month= |accessdate=2007-05-21 ]
Withers worked as an assembler for several different companies, including Douglas Aircraft Corporation, in the Los Angeles area, while recording
demo tapes with his own money that he shopped around and performing with local musicians at the night.cite web |url=http://www.telegraph.co.uk/arts/main.jhtml?xml=/arts/2006/08/10/bmbill10.xml |title=Still a lovely day |accessdate=2007-05-23 |author= |last=Elsworth |first=Catherine |authorlink= |coauthors= |date=2006-08-10 |format= |work=The Telegraph |publisher= |pages= |language= |doi= |archiveurl=http://22.214.171.124/search?q=cache:xTyBhM93i9wJ:www.telegraph.co.uk/arts/main.jhtml%3Fxml%3D/arts/2006/08/10/bmbill10.xml+%22Bill+Withers%22+site:www.telegraph.co.uk&hl=en&client=firefox-a&strip=1 |archivedate=2007-05-11 |quote= ] Although he kept his job as an assembler after he debuted on the music scene in February 1971 with the single " Ain't No Sunshine" and the album "Just As I Am," he was shortly thereafter laid off by Weber Aircraft Corporation.
In early 1970, Withers' demo tape was received favorably by former music manager and music executive and entrepreneur
Clarence Avantof the newly created Sussex Records, Inc., distributed by Buddah Recordsand Interior Music Corp.. Avant signed Withers to recording and publishing contracts on May 8, 1970, and Booker T. Jonesof Stax Recordsproduced Withers' debut album. Withers also signed with the business manager representing Avant, Sussex, and Interior, Paul Orland of Orland, Chase, and Mucci and the law firm representing the same, the legendary music lawyers Abraham Somer, David Berman, and Richard Leher of Mitchell, Silberberg & Knupp LLP. Four three-hour studio sessions were planned to record the album, but problems with funding caused the album to be recorded in three sessions with a six-month break between the second and final sessions. Finally finished in January 1971, "Just As I Am" was released in February 1971 at the same time as the tracks "Harlem" and "Ain't No Sunshine" were released as singles. [Nishimoto, Dan (2006-01-31). " [http://www.popmatters.com/music/interviews/withers-bill-060131.shtml The Mythbuster: An Interview with Bill Withers] ". PopMatters.] The album was a hit, with "Ain't No Sunshine" making it to number three pop and certified gold in the September 1971. Withers made first appearance as a singer on June 26, 1971 in Chicago at the Opera House.
At the 14th annual Grammy Awards on Tuesday, March 14, 1972, Withers won his first Grammy Award for Best Rhythm and Blues Song for "Ain't No Sunshine." Withers began touring and recording with a band assembled from all Los Angeles-based 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 wrote the songs for, recorded, and produced an album for the first time for his second album, "
Still Bill" and Sussex/Buddah released it in May 1972. The single "Lean on Me" went to number one the week of July 8, 1972. The album certified gold September 7, 1972 and peaked at number four on the pop charts.
A Friday, October 6, 1972 performance on a rainy night was recorded for the live album "Bill Withers, Live at Carnegie Hall" released November 30, 1972. Withers lost his mother, Mattie Withers to heart failure in New York in December 1972. He married actress Donna Denise Nicholas on January 17, 1973 in Van Nuys, CA and they divorced in October 1974 in Los Angeles, CA. This was followed by the 1974 album "
After "+'Justments", Withers became involved in a legal dispute with the Sussex Records, Inc., Interior Music, and Clarence Avant beginning in January 1975 and ending in June 1975. After the lawsuit settled in June 1975, Withers became free to sign with another label, but started his own independent music publishing companies, Golden Withers Music and Bleunig Music with the help of business manager Edgar Fleisher Gross of International Business Management in Century City and the noted music law firm of Hardee, Barovick, Konecky & Braun of New York and Beverly Hills. Sussex Records, Inc., went out of business, with the Internal Revenue Service auctioning off all the remaining assets in July 1975 because of unpaid federal and state taxes of $62,000. Withers' new label CBS Records received notice of the auction from Sussex Records, Inc. and Clarence Avant, CBS bought the Sussex masters in July 1975 for $50,500 at the auction. Just before this time, Withers wrote and produced two songs on the
Gladys Knight & the Pipsrecord "I Feel A Song" released January 1, 1974 and performed in concert on September 23, 1974 at "The Zaire Music Festival" which preceded the historic Ali/Foreman fight in Zaire on October 30, 1974. Footage of his musical performance appeared in the 1996 documentary film " When We Were Kings" and the accompanying soundtrack album was released in 1997.
Withers signed with
Columbia Recordsin 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, containing the hit "Lovely Day") and "Bout Love" (1978).
Due to problems with Columbia, he focused on joint projects for several years, including the Grammy-winning "Just the Two of Us," which he performed with
jazzsaxophonist Grover Washington, Jr.released in June 1980 and winning a Grammy Award at the 24th Annual Grammy Awards on February 24, 1982, "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 noted music lawyer Bernard Fischbach of Fischbach and Fischbach, and got out of his contract with Columbia and retired from recording, although he continued performing live sporadically, but retired from constant touring in 1989, last performing live for the birthday party of billionaire Tom Gores of Platinum Equity Partners in Santa Monica in 2004. In 1988, a remixed version of "Lovely Day" from the 1977 "Menagerie" Album, 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. The original release, in 1977, had reached #7 in the UK, and the re-release climbed to #4.
After retiring, Withers focused on parenting to his two children, Todd and Kori Withers, also a singer and songwriter, with his second wife Marcia whom he married December 31, 1976 in Van Nuys, CA, and who handles the day-to-day running of his Beverly Hills-based publishing companies. In 1987, he received his ninth Grammy nomination and on March 2, 1988 his third Grammy for Best Rhythm and Blues Song as a songwriter for the re-recording of "Lean On Me" by
Club Nouveauon their debut album "Life, Love and Pain" released in 1986 on Warner Bros. Records.
Withers contributed two songs to Jimmy Buffett's July 13, 2004 release "License To Chill." Following the reissues of "Still Bill" on
January 28, 2003and "Just As I am" on March 8, 2005, there was speculation of previously unreleased material being issued as a new album. [Mitchell, Gail (2005-10-14). " [http://www.billboard.com/bbcom/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1001306370 Withers In No Hurry To Make New Album] ". "Billboard".] In 2006, Sony gave back to Withers his previously unreleased tapes.
In 2008, a feature documentary is made about Withers, called 'Still Bill'. It is directed by Damani Baker and Alex Vlack. The movie shows Withers at home jamming with members of his old band, and even brings him back on stage singing 'Grandma's Hands' during a tribute concert organized for the documentary.
*1971: "Just As I Am" (Sussex) - US #35, R&B #9
Still Bill" (Sussex) - US #4, R&B #1
*1973: "Live at Carnegie Hall" (Sussex) - US #63, R&B #6
+'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)"
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
Songwriters Hall of Fameinductee
*2006: ASCAP Rhythm & Soul Heritage award [Associated Press (2006-06-02). " [http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2006/06/02/entertainment/e182547D40.DTL LL Cool J, Bill Withers to Be Honored] "]
*2007: Inducted into West Virginia Music Hall of Fame [cite web|url=http://www.cmt.com/news/country-music/1574116/little-jimmy-dickens-joins-west-virginia-music-hall-of-fame.jhtml|title=Little Jimmy Dickens Joins West Virginia Music Hall of Fame|last=Morris|first=Edward |date=2007-11-12|publisher=cmt.com]
Cover versions and sampling
Withers' songs have been covered by many artists across multiple genres. Notable versions include:
*1972: "Ain't No Sunshine",
Michael JacksonUK #8
*1972: "Use Me",
Fred Wesley& The J.B.'s(People - PE616)
*1973: Who Is She (And What Is She to You)?",
Gladys Knight & the Pips
*1973: Who Is He (And What Is He to You)?",
*1974: "Let me in Your Life",
*1974: "Grandma's Hands",
*1976: "Lean On Me", Mud; reached #7 in the UK pop charts
*1977: "The Same Love That Made Me Laugh",
*1979: "Lovely Day",
Morrissey - Mullen
*1980: "Just The Two Of Us", [Grover Washington Jr]
*1981: "Use Me",
Grace Jones, Blackstreet
*1986: "Lean On Me",
Club NouveauUS #1
*1988: "Lovely Day (Sunshine Mix)", remixed by
*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",
*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",
*1993: "Use Me",
Mick Jagger& Lenny Kravitz
*1996: "Who Is He (And What Is He to You)?",
*1998: "A Lovely Day",
Kirk Franklin & The Nu Nation.
*1999: "Ain't No Sunshine",
*1999: "Ain't No Sunshine",
*1999: "Ain't No Sunshine",
David Sanborn& Sting on the Night Musictelevision program
*1999: "Ain't No Sunshine",
Lighthouse Family(UK soul/pop duo)
*2001: "Grandma's Hands",
*2004: "Ain't No Sunshine",
Over The Rhine
*2005: "Ain't No Sunshine",
*2006: "Lovely Day",
*2007: "Lovely Day",
*2007: "Grandma's Hands",
*2007: "Ain't No Sunshine",
*2008: "Grandma's Hands" & "Ain't no Sunshine",
Phil Escobedo[ Phil Escobedo's homepage " [http://www.myspace.com/philipescobedo] ".]
"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 Macand Fiona Applewho 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":
**Aaron Neville, "Bring It on Home…The Soul Classics"
**Tupac Shakur, "Soulja's Story" (1991)
**Kid Frost, "No Sunshine" (1992)
**DMX, "No Sunshine" (2001)
Blackstreetfeaturing Dr. Dre, "No Diggity"
Brother Ali, "Waheedah's Hands"
*"I Can't Write Left-Handed":
Fatboy Slim, "Demons" (2000)
Akon, No Sunshine
*"Just the Two of Us"
Smif-N-Wessun, "Wrekonize (Remix)" (1995)
Tupac Shakur, "Cause I Had To"
Will Smith, "Just the Two of Us" (1997)
Eminem, "Just The Two Of Us" (1997)
The S.O.U.L. S.Y.S.T.E.M.(featuring Michelle Visage), "(It's Gonna Be) A Lovely Day" (1992)
**Will Smith and
DJ Jazzy Jeff, "Lovely Daze" (released on Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince - Greatest Hits, 1998)
Too Short), "Playa's Holiday" (1999)
Twista(featuring Anthony Hamilton), "Sunshine" (2004)
Luther Vandross(featuring Busta Rhymes) Lovely Day Dance With My Father
Swizz Beatz"Take A Picture"- One Man Band Man(2007)
Other songs that sample Bill Withers's songs include:
Blackstreetsampled "Grandma's Hands" for their hit " No Diggity".
Kanye Westsampled "Rosie" in the song "Roses."
LL Cool Jsampled the Creative Sourceversion of "Who Is He (And What Is He to You)?" in his hit single "Phenomenon" (1997).
*"Use Me" is heavily sampled by rap duo
UGKfor 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"
* [http://www.billwithers.com/ Bill Withers official site]
* [http://www.soultracks.com/bill_withers.htm Biography] at [http://soultracks.com Soultracks.com]
* [http://www.billwithersmusic.com/htmlWork/bio1.html Bill Withers Biography] with photos
* "STILL BILL" (http://www.stillbillthemovie.com)
ALTERNATIVE NAMES= Withers, William Harrison, Jr.
SHORT DESCRIPTION=American singer-songwriter
DATE OF BIRTH=
July 4, 1938
PLACE OF BIRTH=
Slab Fork, West Virginia, United States
DATE OF DEATH=
PLACE OF DEATH=
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