William Harrison Withers Jr. was an American singer-songwriter and musician who performed and recorded from 1970 until 1985. He recorded several major hits, including “Ain’t No Sunshine”, “Grandma’s Hands”, “Use Me”, “Lean on Me”, “Lovely Day”, and “Just the Two of Us”.
Withers, the youngest of six children, was born in the small coal-mining town of Slab Fork, West Virginia on July 4, 1938. He was born with a stutter and later said he had a hard time fitting in. Raised in nearby Beckley, he was 13 years old when his father died. Withers enlisted in the United States Navy at the age of 17, and served for nine years, during which time he became interested in singing and writing songs.
He left the Navy in 1965, and relocated to Los Angeles in 1967 to start a music 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” in 1971, he refused to resign from his job because he believed the music business was a fickle industry.
Withers died of heart disease in Los Angeles on March 30, 2020 at the age of 81.
- Full Name: William Harrison Withers Jr.
- Other Names:
- Born: July 4, 1938
- Zodiac: Cancer
- Birth Place: Slab Fork, West Virginia, United States
- Died: March 30, 2020, Los Angeles, California, USA
- Height: 6′ 1½” (1.87 m)
- Genres: Soul music, Rhythm and blues, Smooth soul, Blues, Funk
- Spouse(s): Marcia Johnson (m. 1976–2020), Denise Nicholas (m. 1973–1974)
- Inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame on June 9, 2005 in New York City alongside Robert B. Sherman, Richard M. Sherman, Steve Cropper, John Fogerty, Isaac Hayes and David Porter.
- His composition “Lean On Me” was adopted as a hymn by the Unitarian-Universalist Association and appears in their supplemental hymnal “Singing the Journey” (Hymn # 1021).
- Was working in a factory when he made his first album and didn’t quit when it became successful as he didn’t know how long his career would be.
Served nine years in the U.S. Navy.
- Was twenty-seven when he decided to pursue a career in music.
- Friends with Peabo Bryson.