Song: “Lean On Me” by Bill Withers
Reached #1: July 8, 1972 (his first, 3 weeks)
Bill Withers had a somewhat different relationship with the music industry.
He didn’t even really start looking to break into music until his late 20s. He had left his hometown of Beckley, West Virginia for military service at age 18, came back at 27, and made the move to Los Angeles at 29. Even after his first single (“Ain’t No Sunshine”) looked like it was becoming a hit, he kept his non-music job as an assembler, as he didn’t quite believe that he could trust the music business to support him.
Of course, now it seems obvious that Withers was destined for stardom… but I guess it’s not so obvious when you’re living through it.
You do have to wonder what might have been, though. Withers had contractual problems with both record companies he signed with. He was sidelined from Sussex Records for 2 years, and then for 8 years, a dispute with Columbia Records kept him from releasing solo projects. By that point, the momentum of his career had pretty much stalled.
At Songfacts, Withers explained that “Lean On Me” basically came to him while he was experimenting at the piano. I’m sure that many songwriters who have slaved over songs were only a little jealous…
Tomorrow, the song that started it all.
Other songs that hit #1 on July 8:
1957 – “(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear”/”Loving You” by Elvis Presley with the Jordanaires (his seventh, 8 weeks, Best Sellers chart)
1989 – “Good Thing” by Fine Young Cannibals (their second, 1 week)
1995 – “Waterfalls” by TLC (their second, 7 weeks)
2006 – “Promiscuous” by Nelly Furtado feat. Timbaland (her first, 6 weeks)