Ain’t No Sunshine – Bill Withers | Top 40 Chart Performance, Story and Song Meaning

Chart Performance: Pop (#3) & R&B (#6); 1971

Story Behind The Song By Ed Osborne

Born in Slab Fork, West Virginia, Bill Withers joined the US Navy after high school, and spent nine years as an airplane mechanic. Upon his discharge in 1965, Bill moved to Los Angeles to pursue his passion; recording song demos at night and working on airline company assembly lines during the day. In 1971, the 32-year-old Withers entered the studio, with Booker T. Jones producing and playing electric guitar and keyboards, and bassist Duck Dunn and drummer Al Jackson of the MG’s handling rhythm. The first song they laid down was Ain’t No Sunshine, written by Bill after watching Blake Edwards’ 1962 movie study of alcoholism, Days Of Wine And Roses, on television. Since Bill stomped his foot while strumming, Jones miked a wooden box and recorded the impacts as part of the bass sound. Jones also kept Withers’ space-filling “I know’s” on the final master. Although Ain’t No Sunshine started out as the B side on Withers’ debut single, Harlem, deejays quickly flipped over it, and spun it to #3.

This content and all Song Meaning articles were created and written by Top 40 Contributing Editor Ed Osborne. © 2023 Ed Osborne. All Rights Reserved. In addition to these song meaning articles, Ed has written our “Year in Music 1960s-1990s” articles.

Produced by:

  • Booker T. Jones

Lyrics Written by:

  • Bill Withers


  • Won the 14th Annual Grammy Award for Best R&B Song in 1972