Lean On Me – Bill Withers | Top 40 Chart Performance, Story and Song Meaning

Chart Performance: Pop (#1 for 3 weeks) & R&B (#1); 1972

Story Behind The Song By Ed Osborne

According to Bill, Lean On Me wasn’t a romantic song: he drew inspiration for it from the friendships he formed at the aircraft manufacturing plant where he worked. Within minutes after he started fiddling around on his new Wurlitzer piano (he had no idea how to play it), Bill had picked out the hymn-like melody for Lean On Me.

In the studio, Bill and former members of Charles Wright and The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band came up with a compelling arrangement to support Bill’s impassioned vocal.

In July, 1972 Lean On Me hit #1 on the R&B and pop charts. Fifteen years later, Club Nouveau took Bill’s song to the top of the Top 40 again, and to #2 on the R&B list.

Britain’s love of Lean On Me was even stronger. Over there a rendition by Mud peaked at #7 in 1976 and one by Michael Bolton reached #14 in 1994.

This content and all Song Meaning articles were created and written by Top 40 Contributing Editor Ed Osborne. © 2024 Ed Osborne. All Rights Reserved. In addition to these song meaning articles, Ed has written our “Year in Music 1960s-1990s” articles.

Produced by:

  • Bill Withers

Lyrics Written by:

  • Bill Withers


  • Won BMI Pop Awards in 1973
  • Grammy Hall of Fame Induction in 1999
  • ASCAP Rhythm & Soul Music Awards in 2006