Ain’t No Sunshine: The Smooth Soul and Rough Edges of Bill Withers

Permuted. Sept. 2023. 352p. ISBN 9781637585429. $28.99. BIOG
When Bill Withers’s “Ain’t No Sunshine” hit the airwaves in 1971, the first thing listeners heard was the sound of his voice. No intro, no gloss, just his vocals. It was the perfect introduction to a no-nonsense songsmith whose first album cover showed him wearing a T-shirt and holding a lunch pail. From the beginning, Withers (1938–2020) demonstrated an honesty and simplicity that became hallmarks of his career, Ribowsky (The Big Life of Little Richard) argues. He chronicles the icon in a fascinating biography and career retrospective that draws from interviews with those in Withers’s inner recording circle. The author effectively portrays an artist who was uncompromising in his work and sharp in his craft and never wavered into diva rock-star territory. The book notes that Withers’s strength of self-belief sometimes led to personal and professional struggles, but with his exceptional talent, he never lost the admiration of the public or the respect of his peers as he produced timeless music.
VERDICT Withers, a staple of classic radio and movie soundtracks, seems as popular now as he’s ever been. Loyal and new fans will appreciate this first full biography of the artist.
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