Recording Studio: Bill Withers

Recording Studio musician Bill Withers was Born in 1938 in West Virginia.  Withers served in the U.S. Navy before launching his musical career. He put out his first album, Just as I Am, in 1971, which featured the hit “Ain’t No Sunshine.” More hits soon followed, including “Lean on Me” and “Lovely Day.” Withers teamed up with Grover Washington Jr. in the recording studio for the 1981 smash “Just the Two of Us” before retiring from performing later that decade.

Recording Studio: Early Life and Career

Born on July 4, 1938, in Slab Fork, West Virginia, singer-songwriter Bill Withers is known for such hits as “Ain’t No Sunshine” and “Lean on Me.” He is the youngest of six siblings who grew up in a small coal mining town. As a child, Withers had a terrible stutter, a speech problem that plagued him well into adulthood.
Withers lost his father, a miner, when he was only 13 years old. Four years later, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served for nine years. Withers moved to Los Angeles, where he started penning songs and making his own demo recordings. He later explained to Billboard that he started writing his own material because “I couldn’t find any songs that didn’t sound like all the others.” To fund his musical efforts, he worked on building toilets for airplanes. His songs eventually attracted the attention of Clarence Avant at Sussex Records, and Withers landed a recording studio contract with the label.

Recording Studio: Successful Singer and Songwriter

Working with Booker T. Jones, Withers put out his first album, Just as I Am, in 1971. This proved to be a smash debut, featuring the R&B and pop hit “Ain’t No Sunshine.” The soulful yet melancholy song also earned Withers his first Grammy Award for best R&B song. The following year, he scored perhaps the biggest hit of his career with “Lean on Me,” off his second album, Still Bill. This uplifting ballad reached the top of the pop and R&B charts in 1972 and has become an enduring recording studio classic. “Use Me” was another popular track off that album.
Continuing to perform and record, Withers released + ‘Justments in 1974. The album featured “The Same Love That Made Me Laugh.” That same year, Withers performed at a music festival in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo (then called Zaire), which coincided with Mohammad Ali’s legendary bout against George Foreman. In the mid-1970s, Withers switched to the Columbia record label and scored another No. 1 R&B hit with “Lovely Day” off his Menagerie album in 1977. This sunny, uptempo song was later covered by Jill Scott.