Friday, 22 April 2016

Bill Withers


Bill Withers

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Bill Withers
Bill Withers 1976.JPG
Withers in 1976
Background information
Birth nameWilliam Harrison Withers, Jr.
BornJuly 4, 1938 (age 77)
Slab Fork, West Virginia
United States
GenresSoulR&Bsmooth soulblues,funk
Occupation(s)Musician, singer-songwriter, record producer
InstrumentsVocals, guitar, keyboards
Years active1963 – present
LabelsSussex
Columbia
Associated actsGrover Washington Jr.
Websitebillwithers.com
William Harrison "Bill" Withers, Jr. (born July 4, 1938) is an American singer-songwriter and musician who performed and recorded from 1970 until 1985.[1] He recorded several major hits, including "Lean on Me", "Ain't No Sunshine", "Use Me", "Just the Two of Us", "Lovely Day", and "Grandma's Hands". Withers won three Grammy Awards and was nominated for four more. His life was the subject of the 2009 documentary film Still Bill.[1] He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015.[2]

Contents

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Early life[edit]

Withers was born the youngest of six children in the small coal-mining town of Slab Fork, West Virginia.[3] He was born with a stutter and has said he had a hard time fitting in.[4] Raised in nearby Beckley, he was thirteen years old when his father died.[4] Withers enlisted with the United States Navy at the age of 18 and served for nine years, during which time he got over his stutter and became interested in singing and writing songs. Discharged from the Navy in 1965, he relocated to Los Angeles in 1967 for a musical career.[4][5] Withers worked as an assembler for several different companies, including Douglas Aircraft Corporation, while recording demo tapes with his own money, shopping them around and performing in clubs at night. When he debuted with the song "Ain't No Sunshine" he refused to resign from his job because of his belief that the music business was a fickle industry.[4]

Career[edit]

Sussex records[edit]

During early 1970, Withers' demonstration tape was auditioned favorably by Clarence Avant, owner of Sussex Records. Avant signed Withers to a record deal and assigned former Stax Records stalwart Booker T. Jones to produce Withers' first album.[4] Four three-hour recording sessions were planned for the album, but funding caused the album to be recorded in three sessions with a six-month break between the second and final sessions. Just as I Am was released in 1971 with the tracks, "Ain't No Sunshine" and "Grandma's Hands" as singles. The album features Stephen Stills playing lead guitar.[6] On the cover of the album, Withers is pictured at his job at Weber Aircraft in Burbank, California, holding his lunch pail.[3]
The album was a success and Withers began touring with a band assembled from members of The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band: drummer James Gadson, guitarist Benorce Blackmon, keyboardist Ray Jackson, and bassist Melvin Dunlap.
At the 14th annual Grammy Awards on Tuesday, March 14, 1972, Withers won a Grammy Award for Best R&B Song for "Ain't No Sunshine." The track had already sold over one million copies and was awarded a platinum disc by the RIAA in September 1971.[7]
During a hiatus from touring, Withers recorded his second album, Still Bill. The single, "Lean on Me" went to number one the week of July 8, 1972. It was Withers' second gold single with confirmed sales in excess of three million.[7] His follow-up, "Use Me" released in August 1972, became his third million seller, with the R.I.A.A. gold disc award taking place on October 12, 1972.[7] His performance at Carnegie Hall on October 6, 1972, was recorded, and released as the live album Bill Withers, Live at Carnegie Hall on November 30, 1972. In 1974, Withers recorded the album +'Justments. Due to a legal dispute with the Sussex company, Withers was unable to record for some time thereafter.
During this time, he wrote and produced two songs on the Gladys Knight & the Pips record I Feel a Song, and in October 1974 performed in concert together with James Brown,Etta James, and B. B. King in Zaire four weeks prior to the historic Rumble in the Jungle fight between Foreman and Ali.[8] Footage of his performance was included in the 1996 documentary film When We Were Kings, and he is heard on the accompanying soundtrack. Other footage of his performance is included in the 2008 documentary film Soul Power which is based on archival footage of the 1974 Zaire concert.

Columbia Records[edit]

After Sussex Records folded, Withers signed with Columbia Records in 1975. His first album release with the label, Making Music, Making Friends, included the single "She's Lonely", which was featured in the film Looking for Mr. Goodbar. During the next three years he released an album each year with Naked & Warm (1976), Menagerie (1977, containing the successful "Lovely Day"), "Bout Love" (1978) and "Get on Down"; the latter song also included on the Looking for Mr. Goodbar soundtrack.
In 1976, Withers performed "Ain't No Sunshine" on Saturday Night Live.[9]
Due to problems with Columbia and being unable to get songs approved for his album, he concentrated on joint projects from 1977 to 1985, including "Just the Two of Us", withjazz saxophonist Grover Washington, Jr., which was released during June 1980.[10] It won a Grammy on February 24, 1982. Withers next did "Soul Shadows" with The Crusaders, and "In the Name of Love" with Ralph MacDonald, the latter being nominated for a Grammy for vocal performance.
In 1982, Withers was a featured vocalist on the album, "Dreams in Stone" by French singer Michel Berger. This record included one composition co-written and sung by Withers,[11] an upbeat disco song about New York City entitled "Apple Pie."[12] The album was not released in North America, although it contains several songs about America.
In 1985 came Watching You Watching Me, which featured the Top 40-rated R&B single "Oh Yeah", and ended Withers' business association with Columbia Records. Withers stated in interviews that a lot of the songs approved for the album, in particular, two of the first three singles released, were the same songs which were rejected in 1982, hence contributing significantly to the eight-year hiatus between albums.[10] Withers also stated it was frustrating seeing his record label release an album for Mr. T, an actor, when they were preventing him, an actual singer, from releasing his own. He toured with Jennifer Holiday in 1985 to promote what would be his final studio album.[10]
His disdain for Columbia's A&R executives or "blaxperts", as he termed them, trying to exert control over how he should sound if he wanted to sell more albums, played a part in him making the decision to not record or re-sign to a record label after 1985, effectively ending his performing career, even though remixes of his previously recorded music were released after his 'retirement'.[13][4][14][15][16] Finding musical success later in life than most, at 32, he has said he was socialized as a 'regular guy' who had a life before the music so did not feel that inherent need to keep recording once he fell out of love with the industry.[4] He has also stated that he doesn't miss touring & performing live and does not regret leaving music behind.[4][13] He seemingly no longer suffers from the speech impediment of stuttering that affected him during his recording career.[13]

Post-Columbia career[edit]

In 1988, a new version of "Lovely Day" from the 1977 Menagerie album, entitled "Lovely Day (Sunshine Mix)" and remixed by Ben Liebrand, reached the Top 10 in the United Kingdom, leading to Withers' performance on the long-running Top of the Pops that year. The original release had reached #7 in the UK in early 1978, and the re-release climbed higher to #4.
In 1987, he received his ninth Grammy Award nomination and on March 2, 1988, his third Grammy for Best Rhythm and Blues Song as songwriter for the re-recording of "Lean on Me" by Club Nouveau on their debut album Life, Love and Pain, released in 1986 on Warner Bros. Records.
In 1996, a portion of his song "Grandma's Hands" was sampled in the song "No Diggity" by BLACKstreet, featuring Dr. Dre. The single went to Number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and sold 1.6 million copies and won a Grammy in 1999 for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals.
Withers contributed two songs to Jimmy Buffett's 2004 release License to Chill. Following the reissues of Still Bill on January 28, 2003, and Just As I Am on March 8, 2005, there was speculation of previously unreleased material being issued as a new album.[17] In 2006, Sony gave back to Withers his previously unreleased tapes.
In 2007, "Lean on Me" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
On January 26, 2014, at the 56th annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, Bill Withers: The Complete Sussex & Columbia Albums Collection, featuring Withers' 9 studio albums, received the "Best Historical" Grammy Award (in a tie with The Rolling Stones' "Charlie Is My Darling - Ireland 1965.") The award was presented to Leo Sacks, who produced the collection, and the mastering engineers Mark Wilder, Joseph M. Palmaccio and Tom Ruff.
On April 18, 2015, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by Stevie Wonder.[18][2]
On October 1, 2015, there was a tribute concert at Carnegie Hall in his honor, featuring Aloe BlaccEd SheeranDr. JohnMichael McDonald and Anthony Hamilton recreating his 1973 concert album, Live at Carnegie Hall, along with other Withers material. Withers was in attendance and spoke briefly onstage.[19][20]

Personal life[edit]

Withers married actress Denise Nicholas in 1973, during her stint on the sitcom Room 222. The couple divorced the following year.[21] In 1976, Withers married Marcia Withers née Johnson and they had two children, Todd and Kori.[4] Marcia eventually assumed the direct management of his Beverly Hills-based publishing companies, in which his children also became involved as they became adults.[22]

Discography[edit]

Studio albums[edit]

YearAlbumPeak chart positionsCertifications
(sales threshold)
Record label
US
[23]
US
R&B

[23]
CAN
[24]
UK
[25]
1971Just as I Am35937Sussex
1972Still Bill4171
1974+'Justments677
1975Making Music817Columbia
1976Naked & Warm16941
1977Menagerie39165527
1979'Bout Love13450
1985Watching You Watching Me1434260
"—" denotes the album failed to chart or was not certified

Live albums[edit]

YearAlbumPeak chart positionsRecord label
US
[23]
US
R&B

[23]
1973Live at Carnegie Hall636Sussex
"—" denotes the album failed to chart

Compilation albums[edit]

YearAlbumPeak chart positionsCertifications
(sales threshold)
Record label
US
[23]
US
R&B

[23]
UK
[25]
1975The Best of Bill Withers18233Sussex
1980The Best of Bill Withers, Just The Two of US & Sooul ShadowsColumbia
1981Greatest Hits1835890
1994Lean on Me: The Best of Bill Withers131Legacy
2000The Best of Bill Withers: Lean on Me
2000The Ultimate Bill Withers Collection (2CD)Sony Music
2005Lovely Day: The Very Best of Bill Withers35
2008Ain't No Sunshine: The Best of Bill WithersMusic Club Deluxe
2009Playlist: The Very Best of Bill WithersSussex/Columbia/Legacy
2013The Essential Bill Withers (2CD)
"—" denotes the album failed to chart or was not certified

Singles[edit]

YearSinglePeak chart positions
US
[27]
US
R&B

[27]
US
A/C

[27]
AUS
[28]
CAN
[24]
UK
[25]
1971"Ain't No Sunshine[A]36217940
"Grandma's Hands"42181637
1972"Lean on Me"114122018
"Use Me"221433
"Let Us Love"47173375
1973"Kissing My Love"311265
"Friend of Mine"8025
1974"The Same Love That Made Me Laugh"501039
"You"15
"Heartbreak Road"8913
1975"It's All Over Now" (with Bobby Womack)68
"Make Love to Your Mind"7610
1976"I Wish You Well"54
"Hello Like Before"
"If I Didn't Mean You Well"74
1977"Close to Me"88
"Lovely Day"30625237
1978"Lovely Night for Dancing"75
1979"Don't It Make It Better"30
"You Got the Stuff (Part 1)"85
1981"Just the Two of Us(with Grover Washington, Jr.)232311034
"I Want to Spend the Night"
"U.S.A."83
1984"In the Name of Love" (with Ralph MacDonald)5813695
1985"Oh Yeah!"106224060
"Something That Turns You On"46
"We Could Be Sweet Lovers"
1987"Lovely Day" (re-release)92
1988"Lovely Day" (Sunshine Mix)4
"Ain't No Sunshine" (The Total Eclipse Mix)82
1990"Harlem" (Street Mix)98
"—" denotes the release failed to chart

Other appearances[edit]

YearSongAlbum
2011"Use Me(live November 4, 1972)The Best of Soul Train Live[29][30]
  • A The original version of "Ain't No Sunshine" did not chart on the UK Singles Chart until 2009, 38 years after its release.

Awards[edit]

YearAwardResultCategorySong
1971Grammy AwardWinBest Rhythm & Blues Song"Ain't No Sunshine"
1972NominatedGrammy Award for Best New Artist
1981WinBest Rhythm & Blues Song"Just the Two of Us" (Shared with songwriters Ralph MacDonald and William Salter)
1982NominatedGrammy Award for Song of the Year"Just the Two of Us"
1982NominatedGrammy Award for Record of the Year"Just the Two of Us"
1984NominatedGrammy Award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance"In the Name of Love (feat. Ralph MacDonald)"
1987WinBest Rhythm & Blues Song"Lean on Me" (as covered by Club Nouveau)
1972NAACP Image AwardsWinMale Singer of the Year
-

Honors[edit]

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