Released today in 1988: Ain’t No Sunshine

Circa YR12

Circa YR12

1988 was good year for Bill Withers’ back catalogue. The previous year, he picked up a sizeable royalty cheque for writing Lean On Me, which had been covered by Club Nouveau and gone to #1 in the States and #3 in Britain. Then, at the 30th Annual Grammy Awards on 2 March 1988, the song as performed by Club Nouveau won Best Rhythm & Blues Song, with the award going to Withers as composer. Back in the UK, Ben Liebrand’s “The Sunshine Mix” of Withers’ Lovely Day was issued as a single in the summer and returned the song to the Top 10 in the UK. (The original version had also made the Top 10 hit here ten years earlier.) At the same time, a American singer called Sydney Youngblood launched his career in Britain with a cover of Withers’ Ain’t No Sunshine. Youngblood made #78 in the singles chart, while a few months later a Liebrand remix of the original fell just short of that position, making #82.

The Liebrand remix was the first time Withers’ recording of Ain’t No Sunshine had charted in the UK. A cover version by Michael Jackson had made the Top 10 in 1972 but this was not issued as a single in the US because Withers’ original had charted there the year before. First issued as the B-side to the single Harlem, radio airplay was heavier for Ain’t No Sunshine and the songs were flipped. This was despite the fact that there is no instrumental introduction to the recording – it begins starkly with the vocal – usually unpopular with DJs used to avoiding even a second of “dead air” by providing a introduction to a song by speaking over the opening few seconds of the track.

Dozens of artists have now covered Ain’t No Sunshine; in 2006 the German record label Roof Music issued a ‘various artists’ compilation featuring 20 different versions of the song as part of their ‘One Song Compilations’ series. The repeated phrase “I know, I know,” in the middle of the song was originally a temporary ad lib that Withers intended to replace with better lyrics once he had written them, but he was persuaded by other musicians to leave it as it was. Everyone else has left it in too.

NEW SINGLES on sale from Jul. 4
BOW WOW WOW C30, C60, C90, Go! (EMI EMI5088)
George MICHAEL Monkey (Epic EMU6)
SEVENTH AVENUE (Big Fun) The Love I Lost (Nightmare MARES56)
SPARKS So Important (Carrere CAR427)
Kim WILDE You Came (MCA KIM8)
Sydney YOUNGBLOOD Ain’t No Sunshine (Circa YR12)


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