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     Withers, Bill (4th July 1938-Present)

    He is a singer-songwriter born in Slab Fork, West Virginia, and raised in Beckley, West Virginia. His father, who was a coal miner, died when he was just thirteen years old and after doing odd jobs to assist his mother he decided to enlist with the US Navy when he was seventeen.  During his 9 years in service he began to take an interest in music, particularly singing and started to write his own songs.  He left the Navy in 1965 and two years later he relocated to Los Angeles where, wanting to pursue his musical career, he found himself working for Boeing assembling aeroplane toilets during the day and performing at local venues at night.  He began making demo tapes during this time but very sceptical about the music industry, he still refused to give up his day job even after he had recorded "Ain't No Sunshine".  Sussex Records took him on in 1970 and Booker T. Jones became his producer.  This resulted in his debut album Just As I Am being released in 1971, with "Ain't No Sunshine" shooting up the Billboard singles chart into the No. 3 position.  The album also became a hit and soon he found himself on tour with a backing band that had artists such James Gadson, Ray Jackson and Melvin Dunlap lending him their talents.  When taking a break from touring in 1972 he recorded his next album release, Still Bill, and this would see him gaining further success with his No. 2 US hit "Use Me" and the No. 1 hit single "Lean on Me", gaining international recognition when it went to No. 18 in the UK chart.  He recorded a further two albums after this, but after having legal problems which resulted in him unable to make further recordings with his record label he gave live performances and sang in Zaire at the concert for the famous "Rumble in the Jungle" boxing match between George Foreman and Muhammed Ali.  He also started writing songs for other artists and produced two songs for the I Feel A Song album recorded by Gladys Knight & The Pips.  In 1975 he landed a contract with Columbia Records and he began releasing an album a year for the next three years and had yet another hit with "Lovely Day" which reached No. 7 on the UK chart, although only No. 38 on the Billboard chart.  Encountering problems yet again with the record label, he started working with other artists and 1981 saw him and Grover Washington Jr. receiving several Grammy Award nominations for their "Just the Two Of Us" which had peaked at No. 2 in the US and No. 34 in the UK.  He was also Grammy nominated for this work with The Crusaders on their Soul Shadows and In The Name of Love with Ralph MacDonald. He released his final single "Oh Yeah" in 1985 and the accompanying album Watching You, Watching Me, but after that he got legal assistance and managed to get out of his Columbia Records contract.  He went into retirement and although he appeared on UK television when a remix of "Lovely Day" became a No. 4 hit, he has stopped recording and runs a publishing company with his wife. During the course of his career he has worked with many other singers and musicians and also had his music covered or sampled by many more and these artists put together include Michael Bolton, Eva Cassidy, Club Nouveau, Joe Cocker, Aretha Franklin, Crystal Gayle, Al Green, Don Henley, Hootie & The Blowfish, Michael Jackson, Mick Jagger, Etta James, Al Jarreau, Grace Jones, Tom Jones, Lenny Kravitz, The Lighthouse Family, Johnny Mathis, Paul McCartney, Marcus Miller, Liza Minnelli, Morrissey, Mud, Aaron Neville, Kenny Rogers, Linda Ronstadt, Diana Ross, David Sanborn, Sting, Barbra Streisand, The Temptations and Luther Vandross to name just a very few.  The numerous albums he has appeared on outwith the ones mentioned elsewhere on here also include ' Bout Love, +'Justments, Live at Carnegie Hall, Making Music, Menagerie and Naked and Warm as well as License to Chill by Jimmy Buffett, Rhapsody and Blues by The Crusaders, Givin' It Back by The Isley Brothers, I Heard That! by Quincy Jones, Winelight by Grover Washington Jr. and I Don't Know What the World is Coming To by Bobby Womack.   His work is still ever-present though and since bowing out of the business he has still received another Grammy nomination as a songwriter (his 9th nomination) for Classic Nouveau's "Lean on Me" and his songs are regularly being featured on television and film soundtracks such as American Beauty, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, Bandits, The Bodyguard, Exit Wounds, Hoot, Jackie Brown, Looking for Mr. Goodbar, Notting Hill, Starsky & Hutch and When We Were Kings.  There had been thoughts of a new album in the mid-2000s after some of his albums were re-released, but as yet in 2008 nothing has come of it.  Recognised for his contribution to music he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2005 and the West Virginia Hall of Fame in 2007.

     

    Sources:

    1. http://www.billwithersmusic.com/htmlWork/bio1.html
    2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Withers
    3. http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=11:wiftxqr5ldfe~T1
    4. http://www.soultracks.com/bill_withers.htm
    5. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0936719/bio
    6. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0936719/
    7. http://www.buffettnews.com/resources/coralreeferband/?bid=227
    8. http://shopping.yahoo.com/p:Bill%20Withers:1927005055
    9. http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=11:wiftxqr5ldfe~T4
    10. http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=11:wiftxqr5ldfe~2~T40B

     

    Here he is singing his "Lovely Day"....

     

     

     

     

     

     



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