Monday, February 16, 2009

Bill Withers

Lately I've been hearing a voice that I recognized but couldn't put a name to until today. Then I kicked myself for not being able to recall it right away. How can you possibly forget the name of the man with songs like "Lean on Me", Ain't No Sunshine", "Use Me" and "Grandma's Hands"?

Bill Wither's Page on Soulwalking has this to say:

"b. 4th July 1938, Slab Fork, West Virginia, U.S.A.

Bill Withers was the youngest of six children.

His father died when he was a child and he was raised by his mother and grandmother.

Bill moved to California in 1967 after nine years in the U.S. Navy, posted in Guam and other parts of the Far East.

He then began promoting his original songs around several west coast companies.

He was eventually signed to Sussex Records, by Clarence Avant, in 1971, however, Bill still maintained a day job, at the time, fitting toilets into airplanes for Boeing!

He then secured an immediate hit with his debut single, 'Ain't No Sunshine'.

Produced by Booker T. Jones, with Stephen Stills among the guest musicians, this fine performance was a million-seller, a feat emulated in 1972 by two more excellent releases, 'Lean On Me' and 'Use Me'.

In 1974, his song 'Let Me In Your Life' became the title track of an album for Aretha Franklin.

In 1975, Bill moved to CBS Records.

Withers' light, folksy / soul continued to achieve further success with 'Make Love To Your Mind' (1975), the sublime 'Lovely Day' (1977, a single revamped by a remix in 1988) and 'Just The Two Of Us' (1981), an excellent duet with saxophonist Grover Washington Jr. that earned the two artists a Grammy award in 1982 for the Best R & B performance.

Bill also guested on tracks by the Crusaders and Ralph MacDonald, with 'Soul Shadows' and 'In The Name Of Love', respectively.

In 1985, he released 'Watching You, Watching Me' for CBS, which featured the popular track 'Oh Yeah'.

After that release he toured in the same year with background vocalists James Varner and Lynn Roderick.

At one of these concerts these background vocalists were spotted by show producer Stan Sheppard, who persuaded them to form a group, who later became the soul band By All Means.

Bill also performed on a 'Quiet Storm' tour over the following two years alongside artists including the late Phyllis Hyman, Cherelle and Gerald Albright.

'Lovely Day' re-entered the UK pop charts in 1988 as a result of its use in a British television commercial, reaching the Top 5.

A professional performer, Withers remains a skilled songwriter, whose melodies have been recorded by various bands, including Creative Source, Margie Joseph, Thelma Houston, The Winans and The Blossoms.

These days Bill can be found working as a gardener in his local neighbourhood!


Just As I Am (Sussex 1971)

Still Bill (Sussex 1972)

Bill Withers Live At Carnegie Hall (Sussex 1973)

+Justments (Sussex 1974)

Making Music (Columbia 1975)

Naked And Warm (Columbia 1976)

Menagerie (Columbia 1977)

Bout Love (Columbia 1979)

Watching You Watching Me (Columbia 1985)

Still Bill (1993)

Ain't No Sunshine (Ariola Express 1997)

Top Bill (AMW 1999)"

Here's Bill Withers for your listening pleasure:

A Great Interview with Bill Withers

Grandma's Hands

Ain't No Sunshine

Kissin' My Love

mmm mmm Hello Like Before

Lean on Me

Use Me