Rare Facts About Bill Withers – The 70s’ Rhythm And Blues King
Everybody knows Bill Withers for his songs such as “Ain’t No Sunshine”, “Lean on Me” and “Two Of Us”. All of these songs hit the top Charts in the U.S. and won a Grammy Award, and apart from easily singing the lyrics from his albums, rarely who knows anything about this African-American multi-talent.
Bill Withers kept his private life away from the spotlights and gossip successfully. However, that was due to the fact that Withers never saw himself as a huge r’n’b star, even if he had all rights to do so. Instead, he stayed a regular guy that loves his wife and kids, escaping all the love affairs and attention-seeking behavior that were both seen quite often in celebrities back in those days.
A lot has changed on the music scene since Bill Withers released his debut album in 1968, but his songs still last.
Inspired by emotions he so ingeniously translated to his songs, we decided to dig in a little deeper and let you know more about of of the R’n’B’s evergreen artists. Check out these rare facts about Bill Withers!
1. Multitalented Self Thought Musician
Bill Withers started his career accidentally, and didn’t think his songs will ever be a big deal. Despite his enormous modesty, musical experts give him credits to be among best singers and songwriters in his time.
Apart from having an incredibly smooth voice, he also plays guitar and electric piano. However, he admits that isn’t a big virtuoso with guitar. He actually learned to play it by himself, and he said, “I figured out that you didn’t need to be a virtuoso to accompany yourself.”
2. He Comes From A Poor Background
Withers was born in the small coal-mining town of Slab Fork in West Virginia, on July 4, 1938. Later on, he was raised in the town of Beckley where he went to school. At the time, West Virginia was one of the poorest states in the country.
He came from a big family and was the youngest of six children. His father worked as a coal miner, but unfortunately died when Withers was only thirteen. As a result of the turn of events in his family, he had to start working different jobs in order to help his mother out.
However, his background was the main source of inspiration for his music and lyrics. He said for the magazine Rolling Stone, “We lived right on the border of the black and white neighborhood. I heard guys playing country music, and in church I heard gospel. There was music everywhere.”
3. He Served In The U.S. Navy
In order to escape his small town, Bill decided to apply for the U.S. Navy. He joined the US Navy at age of seventeen and stayed on duty for the next 9 years. He couldn’t know it back then, but this decision actually paved his way to the music scene.
Namely, during his tour of duty in the armed forces, he became interested in singing and songwriting, and that’s where all began. As a result of his duty, he only started dedicating more of his time to music when he was 27 years old.
4. He Worked In A Factory Although His Debut Album Was A Big Hit
In 1965 he quit the Navy, after which he became “the first black milkman in Santa Clara County, California”. Eventually, he found a job as an aircraft mechanic in an aircraft parts factory in L.A., California.
He recalls this period as times when it was all about survival. However, his choice to move to L.A. paid off because it’s how his music career finally kicked off. Being far away from his hometown, he traveled around the state of California, looking for interesting places. He was visiting clubs in Oakland in order to hear musicians play music.
Finally, after hearing a manager of a club complain about how much he was paying the singer, despite him coming too late to the show, Withers finally decided to give his music career a shot.
He was so talented that his debut album actually made him famous immediately. “Ain’t no sunshine” was released as a single in 1971 and hit number six on the U.S. R&B Chart and number three on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. This brought him money and fame, but Withers didn’t believe his career would last long and kept working in the factory.
5. He Used To Stutter
Withers was born with a stutter and being the youngest of six children, it was difficult for him to fit in. He admitted that his stutter made him have a much higher opinion of everyone else than he did of himself. In a way his stutter was stopping him from quitting the Navy, so he finally decided to end his duty as soon as he manages to get rid of his stutter.
Eventually, it worked for him. He used different kinds of tricks to help himself gain a bigger self-confidence.