Ain't No Sunshine

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"Ain't No Sunshine"
Ain'tNoSunshine single.jpg
Single by Bill Withers
from the album Just As I Am
ReleasedJuly 1971
Format7" record
Songwriter(s)Bill Withers
Producer(s)Booker T. Jones
Bill Withers singles chronology
"Ain't No Sunshine"
"Grandma's Hands"

"Ain't No Sunshine" is a song by Bill Withers from his 1971 album Just As I Am, produced by Booker T. Jones. The record featured musicians Donald "Duck" Dunn on bass guitar, Al Jackson Jr. on drums and Stephen Stills on guitar.[1] String arrangements were done by Booker T. Jones, and recorded in Memphis by engineer Terry Manning. The song is in the key of A minor.[2]

The song was released as a single in 1971, becoming a breakthrough hit for Withers, reaching number six on the U.S. R&B Chart and number three on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Billboard ranked it as the No. 23 song for 1971. The song also appears on the original soundtrack album for the film When We Were Kings (1997), and in FX's first season (2016) of the anthology limited series American Crime Story, which focuses on the 1994 murder trial of O. J. Simpson.

The song reached the Top 40 again in 2009, sung by Kris Allen in the 8th season of American Idol.


Withers was inspired to write this song after watching the 1962 movie Days of Wine and Roses. He explained, in reference to the characters played by Lee Remick and Jack Lemmon, "They were both alcoholics who were alternately weak and strong. It's like going back for seconds on rat poison. Sometimes you miss things that weren't particularly good for you. It's just something that crossed my mind from watching that movie, and probably something else that happened in my life that I'm not aware of."[3]

For the song's third verse, Withers had intended to write more lyrics instead of repeating the phrase "I know" 26 times, but then followed the advice of the other musicians to leave it that way: "I was this factory worker puttering around," Withers said. "So when they said to leave it like that, I left it."[4]

Withers, then thirty-one years old, was working at a factory making toilet seats for 747s at the time he wrote the song.[4] On the American Top 40 program of November 6, 1976, Casey Kasem reported that when the song went gold, the record company presented Withers with a golden toilet, marking the start of his new career.[citation needed] "Ain't No Sunshine" was the first of Withers' three gold records in the U.S.

The song was originally released as the B-side to another song called "Harlem". Disc jockeys played "Ain't No Sunshine" as the single instead, and it became a huge hit,[3] the first for Withers.[4] "Harlem" was subsequently covered by The 5th Dimension, which was featured on their Soul and Inspiration album and released as a single.

Withers performed the song on The Old Grey Whistle Test.[5]

"Ain't No Sunshine" is ranked 285th on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.[6] The song won the Grammy for Best R&B Song in 1972.[3]



Region Certification Certified units/sales
Italy (FIMI)[14] Platinum 50,000double-dagger
United Kingdom (BPI)[15] Platinum 600,000double-dagger
United States (RIAA)[16] Gold 1,000,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone
double-daggersales+streaming figures based on certification alone

Michael Jackson version[edit]

"Ain't No Sunshine"
Ain't No Sunshine Michael Jackson.jpg
Single by Michael Jackson
from the album Got to Be There
B-side"I Wanna Be Where You Are"
ReleasedJuly 3, 1972
Format7" single
StudioHitsville West, Los Angeles, California
Songwriter(s)Bill Withers
Producer(s)Hal Davis
Michael Jackson singles chronology
"I Wanna Be Where You Are"
"Ain't No Sunshine"

In 1971, singer Michael Jackson recorded a rendition of Bill Withers' song for his debut album Got to Be There (released in early 1972).

In the UK the song was released as the third (and final) single from the album (after the two singles "Got to Be There" and "Rockin' Robin", a cover of Bobby Day's 1958 song).[17] (The song "I Wanna Be Where You Are", which was released as the third single in the US, was on the B-side.) It was a hit, peaking in the UK Singles Chart at number 8 for 3 weeks in September 1972.[18][19] The song's drum break was sampled in "Gonna Love Me" by Teyana Taylor from her second studio album K.T.S.E..

Boris Gardiner version[edit]

The Boris Gardiner Happening recorded a version of "Ain't No Sunshine" in 1973 with Paul Douglas singing lead, and Boris Gardiner playing bass guitar, for the album Is What's Happening.[20]

Budka Suflera version[edit]

Polish rock band Budka Suflera recorded cover of song in 1974 with Krzysztof Cugowski lead vocal under the title "Sen o dolinie" and again in 1983 as a single from their compilation album "1974-1984" publishing by Polskie Nagrania Muza. Polish lyrics written by Adam Sikorski.[21]

Weekly charts[edit]

Chart (1983) Peak
Poland (LP3)[22] 14

Rockmelons featuring Deni Hines version[edit]

"Ain't No Sunshine"
Single by The Rockmelons feat. Deni Hines
from the album Form 1 Planet
ReleasedNovember 1991
FormatCD single
LabelFestival Mushroom Records
Songwriter(s)Bill Withers
Producer(s)The Rockmelons
The Rockmelons feat. Deni Hines singles chronology
"Ain't No Sunshine"
"That Word (L.O.V.E.)"

In November 1991, Australian pop band Rockmelons, (featuring vocalist Deni Hines) released a version as the lead single from their second studio album, Form 1 Planet (1992). The song peaked at number 5 and was certified Gold in Australia.[23]

Weekly charts[edit]

Chart (1991/92) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[24] 5
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[25] 8

Ladysmith Black Mambazo featuring Des'ree version[edit]

"Ain't No Sunshine"
Single by Ladysmith Black Mambazo feat. Des'ree
from the album In Harmony
ReleasedOctober 1999
FormatCD single
Songwriter(s)Bill Withers
Ladysmith Black Mambazo feat. Des'ree singles chronology
"Best Days"
"Ain't No Sunshine"
"It's Okay"

In 1999, South African male choral group Ladysmith Black Mambazo, (featuring vocalist Des'ree) released a version as a single from their studio album, In Harmony (1999). The single peaked at number 42 in the UK.[26]

Weekly charts[edit]

Chart (1999) Peak
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[27] 42

Other covers[edit]

  • Heavy metal band Black Label Society covered the song on their 2013 album Unblackened under the title "Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone". This version was subsequently released as a single, peaking at No. 42 on the Canadian Rock Chart.[28]

Electronic musician and producer Lido (musician) remixed the song in 2014. This version was released as under Sony Music and Ultra Music as an official remix in 2015, and has since garnered critical acclaim. [29]


  1. ^ The Mojo Collection: 4th Edition, LyricsFreak, Broken Radio, About.comOldies Music - In The Spotlight: Bill Withers
  2. ^ Stephenson, Ken (2002). What to Listen for in Rock: A Stylistic Analysis, p.89. ISBN 978-0-300-09239-4.
  3. ^ a b c "Ain't No Sunshine". Archived from the original on 8 April 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-03.
  4. ^ a b c "News". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2016-10-03.
  5. ^ The Old Grey Whistle Test (DVD). Warner Home Video. 2003.
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-07-11. Retrieved 2012-06-30.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970-1992. St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  8. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". 2012-03-30.
  9. ^ Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955-1990 - ISBN 0-89820-089-X
  10. ^ "Cash Box Top 100 10/09/71". Archived from the original on 7 June 2015. Retrieved 9 October 2018.
  11. ^ "Top 100 Hits of 1971/Top 100 Songs of 1971". Retrieved 9 October 2018.
  12. ^ "Cash Box YE Pop Singles - 1971". Archived from the original on 6 October 2016. Retrieved 9 October 2018.
  13. ^ Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. 1971-12-25. p. 15. Retrieved 2016-10-03. another day paul mccartney.
  14. ^ "Italian single certifications – Bill Withers – Ain't No Sunshine" (in Italian). Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana. Retrieved January 21, 2020. Select "2019" in the "Anno" drop-down menu. Select "Ain't No Sunshine" in the "Filtra" field. Select "Singoli online" under "Sezione".
  15. ^ "British single certifications – Bill Withers – Ain't No Sunshine". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved January 21, 2020.
  16. ^ "American single certifications – Bill Withers – Ain't No Sunshine". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved January 21, 2020. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH. 
  17. ^ "Michael Jackson — full Official Chart History". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 2016-05-09.
  18. ^ "Michael Jackson". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
  19. ^ "ChartArchive - Michael Jackson - Ain't No Sunshine". Archived from the original on August 25, 2012. Retrieved 2016-05-09.
  20. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-11-16. Retrieved 2016-11-16.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  21. ^
  22. ^ "Lista Przebojów Programu 3". Poland LP3. Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  23. ^ Ryan, Gavin (2011). Australia's Music Charts 1988-2010. Mt. Martha, VIC, Australia: Moonlight Publishing.
  24. ^ " – Rockmelons – Ain't No Sunshine". ARIA Top 50 Singles. Retrieved 1 June 2016.
  25. ^ " – Rockmelons – Ain't No Sunshine". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved 1 June 2016.
  26. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100 | Official Charts Company". Retrieved 2016-10-03.
  27. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 17 July 2016.
  28. ^ Cubarrubia, RJ (August 9, 2013). "Black Label Society Cover Bill Withers' 'Sunshine' – Song Premiere". Rolling Stone. Retrieved May 26, 2016.
  29. ^ Bill Withers - "Ain't No Sunshine (Lido Remix)"

External links[edit]