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YouTube Gold: Bill Withers

What a gorgeous performance

Bill Withers Portrait Session In LA
 LOS ANGELES - SEPTEMBER 5: Singer and songwriter Bill Withers poses for a portrait on September 5, 1972 in Los Angeles, California.
Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Bill Withers, who died in 2020, didn’t have a long music career, but he had a major impact.

Born in Slab Fork, West Virginia, population 202, with no college graduates, Withers grew up in nearby Beckley, and left the state when he was 17 after joining the Navy.

After he got interested in music, he eventually impressed people and released some enduring classics including Lean On Me and Ain’t No Sunshine. Some songs have a sense of time like, say, work by The Who or the Rascals or Chuck Berry.

Not so with Withers. The best of his work is timeless and should slot into the Great American Songbook with other great writers and performers.

Unfortunately he had consistent disputes with his labels and this limited his output and led him to essentially retire in the 1980s after just 15 years in the business. It’s a shame he wasn’t in the business longer but who can blame him after how he was treated.

But his very best work is, as we said, timeless. Listen to this performance of Ain’t No Sunshine. It’s not dated but we’d guess it’s from the mid to late ‘70s. As the commenters note, the drummer really adds a lot but Withers drives the car.