William Harrison Withers,Jr ,was born July 4,1938 in Slab Fork , West Virginia,one of six children. His father was a coal miner who died when Bill was 13 years old. At age 18,he joined the U.S Navy where he served nine years and developed an interest in in singing and songwriting which led him to Los Angeles to pursue a musical career after his stint in the Navy.
In L.A, he worked as an assembler and used the money he earned to pay for his own demo tapes. Clarence Avant, of Sussex Records,like what he heard and signed Bill to a record deal. The album”Just As I Am” was released in 1971 with “Ain’t No Sunshine” and “Grandma’s Hands” as the two singles.
In March of 1972,Bill won the Grammy for Best Rhythm and Blues Song for “Ain’t No Sunshine” after selling more than a million copies.
During a hiatus from tour,he released his second album-“Still Bill”. In 1972,the single “Lean On Me” went to number one on the charts. It was his second gold album with over three million sales. His second single from that album,”Use Me”,also ran up the chart and became his third million seller.
In 1975, he signed with Columbia Records. His first album there,”Making Music,Making Friends” had a single,”She’s Lonely” which was featured in the film “Looking For Mr. Goodbar”. He released three more albums,including “Menagerie” which held the successful single”Lovely Day”.
He also began working on other outside projects collaborating with others,most notably the very successful “Just The Two Of Us With Grover Washington,Jr. That song won a Grammy in 1982. In 1988,he one his third Grammy for Best Rhythm And Blues Song for songwriter on the remake of” Lean On Me” by Club Nouveau. A portion of his song”Grandma’s Hands” was sampled by the group Blackstreet in the song “No Diggity” That single went to number one on the charts and sopld over 1.5 million copies and won a Grammy in 1988.
In 2007, the song “Lean On Me” was inducted into the Grammy Hall OF Fame.
Why do I love Bill Withers? Well,first of all,isn’t it nice reading a story about a successful musician without the drama,drugs and scandals? Refreshing indeed! But mostly,I just love his songs. They are universal and most can identify with them. Isn’t that what good music is all about? And personally.I just find his voice very soothing. Like a blanket. Comforting. I know that may sound silly,but it’s how I feel.
God Bless Bill Withers.