“Ain’t No Sunshine” is just one of those songs–people remember where they were when they first heard it. Or more accurately, in most cases, what kind of car they were in. (Because “Ain’t No Sunshine” has been an FM radio DJ standard for decades–and FM used to be a driving experience.) Bill Withers has had a long successful career in the music business: he played Carnegie Hall (here’s the proof) and had a bona fide #1 hit in “Lean on Me” after nine years in the U.S. Navy and long hours as a civilian working at the Douglas Aircraft Corporation. “Ain’t No Sunshine” broke him out, and free. Lenny Kravitz, John Mayer, and Joe Cocker have recorded it, just to name a few.
Withers retired in the 1980s and, unlike most performers of his stature, has never been lured back by the easy money. The great 2009 documentary Still Bill delivers a penetrating look at the man, his music and the principles that allowed him to thrive–and then to survive. There is nobody in music–and there never will be–who you’d want to hear say over and over: “I know I know I know I know I know I know I know I know I know I know….” Because as he says in the documentary, “most people don’t know and don’t care who you are.” The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame welcomes the marvelous Bill Wither in its class of 2015.