10 Minutes of Music – 2/11-13-2013
Today’s 10 minutes of music are three fantastic songs by Bill Withers. Bill is an amazing artist. All three of today’s songs reached the top three on the charts, so they’re probably songs you’re well aware of. I certainly was aware of them, but had not truly realized their greatness until recently. I came across a documentary on TV called “Still Bill”. I highly recommend watching this. It delved into Bill’s career and life and what an interesting man he is. After watching this, I started digging into Bill’s catalog of music. I listened again to these three songs and became a much bigger fan of them than I had been.
Our first song is “Ain’t No Sunshine”, definitely a classic song. It reached number two on the charts in 1971. I’ve always felt it was way too short; I always wanted another 3 or 4 verses. Coming in at 2 minutes and 3 seconds felt like a tease, but was so pure at the same time. Withers has said that he wrote this song after watching “Days of Wine and Roses” with Lee Remick and Jack Lemmon. I’ve never seen the movie but may just have to watch it, now that I know it inspired this song. He said the song just kinda came to him. It starts out very simple, just his voice and light guitar playing. At the 50-second mark, he breaks into a 15 second heartfelt repetition of two simple words repeated 26 times!!!… we all know and sing along when we hear it… “I know, I know, I know, I know…” I’ve always felt this was a great song for a man who’s missing his woman. I think if you really love a woman, and just miss her not being in your home, your life, etc. you can really feel those words…”ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone, and this house just ain’t no home…only darkness everyday”… poetry at it’s best…
Incidentally, the “I know, I know…” part was originally not going to be kept in the song…Bill has said that he planned to write something in that part, but was encouraged to keep it just that way. Who advised him to keep it that way? Only such legends as Booker T, Stephen Stills, and Graham Nash among others who were all in the studio when this recording was made. Bill has said that he was just a factory worker who was kind of puttering around, and all these guys had such experience and reputations. He said if their advice was to leave it like that, then that’s what he would do. Wise decision.
Next up, another classic “Lean On Me” went to number one on the charts the week of July 8, 1972. I was only 8 years old then, but I listened to the radio constantly and remember this song quite well. It’s such an uplifting, positive, message-type song, filled with hope, played at funerals, parties, wherever a group of people get together and wanna feel a little better about life. The first notes on the organ and piano are instantly recognizable, and then Bill comes in humming the melody. All this sets the rhythm, and starts the song with a whole lot of soul. When Bill’s vocals come in it captures your interest to hear more of what he’s singing, and thus begins a sermon in a song. No preaching, just teaching us that “we all have pain, we all have sorrow, but if we are wise, we know that there’s always tomorrow… Lean on me…”
Twice in the song, there’s the temptation to join in with the artists and attempt to clap along and sing along. For the rhythmically challenged crowd like myself, this can be easier said than done, but still an awful lot of fun. Like “Ain’t No Sunshine”, Bill has another repetition in this song… done just as well… the last 50 seconds are just Bill and the backup singers repeating “call me, if you ever need a friend, call me, call me, call me, call me…” Comforting words any of us would like to hear from our friends…. Call me if you ever need a friend… Did I mention poetry yet? ☺ Lastly, this song is one of the chart phenomena where the original and the remake by Club Nouveau both hit number one.
We’ll finish today’s music with another great sing along. The song was number one on the charts in 1979. Withers sang lead on this, but it was credited to Grover Washington Jr., a very respected jazz saxophone player and appeared on his album. Withers did not originally write the song, but he was allowed to change the lyrics some. Wither’s friend Ralph McDonald, a writer and producer, and his friend Bill Salter wrote it. This song has it’s own pure poetry with “good things might come to those who wait, but not to those who wait too late.” The song ends with a soothing saxophone solo by Grover Washington Jr.
Today’s music comes in at 10 minutes and 18 seconds; all three songs won Grammy awards, and would be a great way to brighten ten minutes of your day. To expand your knowledge of Withers music, I strongly suggest listening to “Lovely Day” and “Railroad Man”. Two more great examples of Withers “feeling his songs, and putting some funk and soul altogether to make fantastic music”. Turn it up…sing along…take care.