The Simple Genius of Bill Withers’ ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’

Music essayist Noah Lefevre of Polyphonic takes a heartfelt look at the wonderful simplicity of the classic Bill Withers song “Ain’t No Sunshine”.

There are some songs that are difficult to imagine someone writing. Songs that express some human experience so pure, so raw, that they feel like they’ve always been around in some form or another. For me, one such song has always been “Ain’t No Sunshine”.

LeFevre also recounts Withers’ humble beginnings, his ability to hang on to his working-class roots even as his songs made him famous, and the simple genius behind his emotive lyrics.

Bill Withers’ breakthrough hit is an expression of a universal feeling. And structurally, its got this almost primal simplicity to it, harkening back to the Delta Blues traditon. … Despite its timeless sound, “Ain’t No Sunshine” was in fact written by Bill Withers in 1971 and the story of that writing can help us understand what makes “Ain’t No Sunshine” such a timeless song and what makes Bill Withers such a unique artist.