Artist: Bill Withers

Ain’t No Sunshine ~ Bill Withers

Bill Withers is an American singer-songwriter and musician who performed and recorded from 1970 until 1985. Some of his best-known songs are “Lean on Me”, “Ain’t No Sunshine”, “Use Me”, “Just the Two of Us”, “Lovely Day”, and “Grandma’s Hands”.

Withers was born the youngest of thirteen children in the small coal-mining town of Slab Fork, West Virginia. Raised in nearby Beckley, West Virginia, Withers was thirteen years old when his father died. He enlisted with the United States Navy at age eighteen and served for nine years, during which time he became interested in singing and writing songs. Soon after his discharge from the Navy in 1970, he relocated to Los Angeles for a musical career.

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 his job because of his belief that the music business was a fickle industry and that he was still a novice compared to other acts.

Ain’t No Sunshine

Withers was inspired to write this song after watching the 1962 movie Days of Wine and Roses. He explained, in reference to actors Lee Remick and Jack Lemmon, “They were both alcoholics who were alternately weak and strong. It’s like going back for seconds on rat poison. Sometimes you miss things that weren’t particularly good for you. It’s just something that crossed my mind from watching that movie, and probably something else that happened in my life that I’m not aware of.”

For the song’s third verse, Withers had intended to write more lyrics instead of repeating the phrase “I know” over and over again, but then followed the advice of the other musicians to leave it that way: “I was this factory worker puttering around,” Withers said. “So when they said to leave it like that, I left it.” (Withers, then thirty-one years old, was working at a factory making toilet seats for 747s at the time.)

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Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone
It’s not warm when she’s away.
Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone
She’s always gone too long
Anytime she goes away.

Wonder this time where she’s gone
Wonder if she’s gone to stay
Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone
And this house just ain’t no home
Anytime she goes away.

And I know, I know, I know, I know,
I know, I know, I know, I know, I know,
I know, I know, I know, I know, I know,
I know, I know, I know, I know, I know,
I know, I know, I know, I know, I know,
I know, I know,
Hey, I oughtta leave young thing alone
But ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone
Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone
Only darkness every day
Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone
And this house just ain’t no home
Anytime she goes away

I know, I know, I know, I know,
I know, I know, I know, I know, I know,
I know, I know, I know, I know, I know,
I know, I know, I know, I know, I know,
I know, I know, I know, I know,
Hey, I oughtta leave young thing alone
But ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone
Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone
Only darkness every day
Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone
And this house just ain’t no home
Anytime she goes away
Anytime she goes away
Anytime she goes away
Anytime she goes away

[Spoken:]
“Thank you. Appreciate that. Yeah”

  • Audio from the 1971 album, Just As I Am:

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