Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.
You might know Bill Withers from his hit songs Lean on Me and Just the Two of Us (the latter sampled by The Fresh Prince in 1998). Those songs gave the listener a positive vibe, the feeling that everything will be OK. 1971’s hit single Ain’t No Sunshine delivers the exact opposite vibe – depression & hopelessness. The song appears on Withers’ debut album, Just As I Am and was also the b-side to the single Harlem. Disc jockeys preferred Ain’t No Sunshine and played it repeatedly in ’71 and ’72, sending it to #6 on the charts along with over 1 million units sold. The song features the most soul baring vocal performance of all time, the lyrics exploring the depths of the narrator’s despair since his woman left him. Check out these lyrics: “Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone / Only darkness every day”. The middle section of the song features Withers’ saying “I know” 26 times in different vocal affectations. He originally had planned on adding in lyrics to that section, but all the musicians loved it the way it was. Musicians on the record? They included Stephen Stills (Buffalo Springfield, CSNY), Donald “Duck” Dunn (Booker T. & the M.G.’s, Neil Young, Elvis Presley, many more), Booker T. Jones (Booker T. & the M.G.’s), Jim Keltner (John Lennon among many others), along with other accomplished session musicians. The band isn’t overbearing or showy – they lock into a groove that never overwhelms Bill Withers’ vocals. This is without a doubt, a perfect song.