Ain't No Sunshine

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"Ain't No Sunshine"
Single by Bill Withers
from the album Just As I Am
B-side "Harlem"
Released June 1971
Format 7" record
Genre Soul, R&B, blues
Length 2:03
Label Sussex
Writer(s) Bill Withers
Producer(s) Booker T. Jones
Certification Gold (RIAA)
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 natural minor.[2]

The song was released as a single in September 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.[3]


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."[4]

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."[5]

Withers, then thirty-one years old, was working at a factory making toilet seats for 747s at the time he wrote the song.[5] On the American Top 40 program of November 6, 1976, Casey Kasem reported that when the song when 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,[4] the first for Withers.[5] "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.[6]

"Ain't No Sunshine" is ranked 285th on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.[7] The song won the Grammy for Best R&B Song in 1972.[4]


In 1972, Michael Jackson's cover of the song was a hit single in the UK. It also featured on his debut album Got to Be There in the same year.[8]

In 2013, heavy metal band Black Label Society covered the song on their album Unblackened under the title "Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone". Their version was subsequently released as a single, which peaked at #42 on the Canadian Rock Chart. [9]

The song has been covered more than 130 times:

Aaron Kelly, Aaron Neville, Abramo, Adam Again, Akon, Airto Moreira & Flora Purim, Al Green, Al Jarreau, Amos Lee, Andy Abraham, Anomie Belle, At Last, Augustus Pablo, Aynsley Lister, A-mei, Barry White, B.B. King, Betty Wright, BoA, Bobby Blue Bland, Bobbi Humphrey, Boney James, Boris Gardiner, Buddy Guy, Budka Suflera, Cat Stevens, Chenoa, Christina Christian, D’Angelo, DMX, Daphne's Flight, Dave McPherson, David Cassidy, David Sanborn, Des'ree & Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Dopethrone, Emily King, Eva Cassidy, Everlast, Fable, Fall Out Boy, Finger Eleven, Freddie Foxxx, Freddie King, Giorgia, Gomez, Grover Washington, Jr., Hanson, Heather Peace, Horace Andy, Ida Sand, Intars Busulis, Isaac Hayes, Jars of Clay, Ja Rule, James Taylor, Jazzamor, Jeff Beck, Joan Osborne, Joe Cocker, Johnny Clarke, John Mayer, John Waite, Jose Feliciano, Joss Stone, Julian Thome, Junior Murvin, Justin Nozuka, Justin Timberlake & Robyn Troup, Kashmere Stage Band, Ken Boothe, Kenny Rogers, Khalil Fong, Kris Allen, Lee DeWyze, Lenny Kravitz, Leonard Cohen, Lighthouse Family, Lionel Hampton, Lucero, Lyn Collins, Mark Knopfler & Al Jarreau, Mark Eitzel, Maroon 5, Marvin Gaye, Matt Andersen, Max Mutzke, Maynard Ferguson, Maysa, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, Melanie Safka, Melody Gardot, Merrill Osmond, Michael Bolton, Michael Chapdelaine, Mobb Deep, Montezuma’s Revenge, Naná Vasconcelos, Nancy Sinatra, Nataly Dawn, Neil Diamond, New York Voices, Overboard, Olivia Ong, Pastor Troy, Paul Carrack, Paul McCartney, Percy Sledge, Rachel Z, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Richard Marx, Rhymefest, Rob Thomas Ft. Carlos Santana, Rockmelons & Deni Hines, Rodney Jones, Roy Ayers, Sakis Rouvas, Savoy Brown, Scott Walker, Selah Sue feat. Ronny Mosuse, Shaun Smith, Sivuca, Slavi Trifonov, Soul For Real, Stefan Gwildis, Steven Houghton, Sting, Subsonica, Sydney Youngblood, Taufik Batisah, TC Carson, Ted Levine, Tereza Kerndlová, The Police, The Temptations, The Slackers, Tim Johnson, Tom Jones, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Tori Amos, Tracy Chapman, Tyrone Wells, UB40, Umphrey’s McGee, Van Morrison, Victor Wooten, Will Hoge, Will Young, Woven Hand, Wynonna Judd, Ysabella Brave, Ziggy Marley


  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. ^ Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles of 1971
  4. ^ a b c "Ain't No Sunshine". Archived from the original on 8 April 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-03. 
  5. ^ a b c Ain't No Sunshine: Rolling Stone
  6. ^ The Old Grey Whistle Test (DVD). Warner Home Video. 2003. 
  7. ^ "500 Greatest Songs of All Time". 
  8. ^ "Michael Jackson". Retrieved 15 March 2015. 
  9. ^ 

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