"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. 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.
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."
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."
Withers, then thirty-one years old, was working at a factory making toilet seats for 747s at the time he wrote the song. 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. "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, the first for Withers. "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.
"Ain't No Sunshine" is ranked 285th on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. The song won the Grammy for Best R&B Song in 1972.
|US Billboard Hot 100
|US Cash Box 
|US R&B/Soul (Billboard)
Michael Jackson version
In 1971 singer Michael Jackson recorded a cover version 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). (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.
Boris Gardiner version
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.
Rockmelons featuring Deni Hines version
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.
Ladysmith Black Mambazo featuring Des'ree version
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.
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.
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