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
B-side "Harlem"
Released 1971
Format 7" record
Length 2:03
Label Sussex
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]

Chart history[edit]

Michael Jackson version[edit]

"Ain't No Sunshine"
Single by Michael Jackson
from the album Got to Be There
B-side "I Wanna Be Where You Are"
Released July 2, 1972 (UK only)
Format 7" single
Recorded 1971
Hitsville West, Los Angeles, California
Length 4:09
Label Motown ( Canada and
 United States)
Songwriter(s) Bill Withers
Producer(s) Hal Davis
Michael Jackson singles chronology
"Rockin' Robin"
"Ain't No Sunshine"

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).[13] (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.[14][15]

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.[16]

Rockmelons featuring Deni Hines version[edit]

"Ain't No Sunshine"
Single by The Rockmelons feat. Deni Hines
from the album Form 1 Planet
Released November 1991
Format CD single
Length 3:20
Label Festival 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.[17]

Weekly charts[edit]

Chart (1991/92) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[18] 5
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[19] 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
Released October 1999
Format CD single
Genre World
Length 3:50
Label UMTV
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.[20]

Weekly charts[edit]

Chart (1999) Peak
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[21] 42

Other covers[edit]

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.[22]


  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. 
  7. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". 
  8. ^ Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955-1990 - ISBN 0-89820-089-X
  9. ^ Cash Box Top 100 Singles, October 9, 1971
  10. ^
  11. ^ Cash Box Year-End Charts: Top 100 Pop Singles, December 25, 1971
  12. ^ Billboard. 1971-12-25. p. 15. Retrieved 2016-10-03. 
  13. ^ "Michael Jackson — full Official Chart History". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 2016-05-09. 
  14. ^ "Michael Jackson". Archived from the original on 2 February 2008. Retrieved 15 March 2015. 
  15. ^ "ChartArchive - Michael Jackson - Ain't No Sunshine". Archived from the original on August 25, 2012. Retrieved 2016-05-09. 
  16. ^ The Boris Gardiner Happening (1973) Is Whats Happening. Web. Retrieved 16 November 2016. <>
  17. ^ Ryan, Gavin (2011). Australia's Music Charts 1988-2010. Mt. Martha, VIC, Australia: Moonlight Publishing. 
  18. ^ " – Rockmelons – Ain't No Sunshine". ARIA Top 50 Singles. Retrieved 1 June 2016.
  19. ^ " – Rockmelons – Ain't No Sunshine". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved 1 June 2016.
  20. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100 | Official Charts Company". Retrieved 2016-10-03. 
  21. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 17 July 2016.
  22. ^ Cubarrubia, RJ (August 9, 2013). "Black Label Society Cover Bill Withers' 'Sunshine' – Song Premiere". Rolling Stone. Rolling Stone Magazine. Retrieved 26 May 2016. 

External links[edit]