Bill Withers

Lean on Me

Composed by Bill Withers / William Becton

Song Review by

Singer/songwriter Bill Withers wrote "Lean on Me" based on his experiences growing up in a West Virginia coal mining town. During the lean times, neighbors would help each other out. The simple chord progression was created while he noodled around on his just purchased Wurlitzer electric piano. He wasn't a pianist and had no knowledge of the keyboard; he just knew that he liked the sound made when he spaced his fingers a certain way. The sound of the chords reminded Withers of the church hymns that he heard growing up. The song was written before Withers was a recording star, having to come up with "material" for a new album. It was written purely on the basis of the singer wanting to express the "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" sentiment that he'd grown up with. On the session for "Lean on Me," producer Withers used former members of the Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band ("Express Yourself," "Loveland"): drummer James Gadson, keyboardist Ray Jackson, guitarist Benorce Blackman, and bassist Melvin Dunlop. The follow-up to "Ain't No Sunshine" and his second gold single, "Lean on Me" went to the number one spot on the R&B charts and topped the pop charts for three weeks in summer 1972.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Still Bill 1972 Columbia
Live at Carnegie Hall 1973 Columbia / Columbia/Legacy 5:47
No Image 1980 Sony BMG
Greatest Hits 1981 Sony/Columbia
Sounds of the Seventies: 1972 1989
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:48
When I Need You 1990
Various Artists
CBS Records 4:16
Super Bad Is Back 1991
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution
Rhythm & Blues: 1972 1992
Various Artists
Time/Life Music
No Image 1993
Various Artists
Alex
The Buddah Box 1993
Various Artists
Essex 4:16
Lean on Me: The Best of Bill Withers 1994 Sony Music Distribution 4:17
Midnight Soul [MCI] 1994
Various Artists
MCI 4:17
Soul Patrol, Vol. 1 1994
Various Artists
Ripete Records 4:17
No Image 1994
Various Artists
Castle Music Ltd.
Soul Train: Hall of Fame, 20th Anniversary 1994
Various Artists
Rhino 3:57
No Image 1996
Various Artists
Madacy 4:19
Rock On 1972: Summer Breeze 1996
Various Artists
Excelsior Recordings
Old School Love Songs, Vol. 4 1997
Various Artists
Thump Records 4:18
Superstars Greatest Hits, Vol. 1 1997
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 4:17
70s Heavy Hitters: #1 Pop Hits 1998
Various Artists
Dominion
Saving Grace 1998
Various Artists
Polygram 4:17
Have a Nice Decade: The 70s Pop Culture Box 1998
Various Artists
Rhino 3:42
#1 Hits of 1970-1974 1998
Various Artists
GNP/Crescendo 3:55
Soul Inspiration 1998
Various Artists
Crimson Productions 4:17
Chicken Soup for the Soul: Collection 1998
Various Artists
Rhino 3:58
Solid Gold Soul: Classic Soul 1998
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Time/Life Music 4:17
Top Bill 1999 Sony Music Distribution 4:18
Chicken Soup for the Soul: A Christmas Gift to You 1999
Various Artists
Rhino 3:58
No Image 1999
Various Artists
Image Entertainment
Soul Hits of the 70's [Sony] 2000
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 4:19
The Best of Bill Withers: Lean on Me 2000 Columbia/Legacy 4:17
70's Jewels 2000
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 4:17
The Ultimate Collection 2000 Sony Music Distribution
Singers & Songwriters: 1972-1973 2000
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 4:20
Old School Love Songs [Box Set] 2001
Various Artists
Thump Records 4:18
Solid Gold Soul Inspiration 2001
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 4:19
70's Pop Hits 2001
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 4:19
Super Hits 2001 Sony Music Distribution / Sbme Special Mkts. / Sony Music 4:19
God Bless America [Sony] 2001
Various Artists
BMG / Sony Music / Sony Music Entertainment
Three Decades of Soul 2001
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 4:19
Blues & Soul, Vol. 3: 1972-1973 2002
Various Artists
Connoisseur Collection
Singing in My Heart: Songs of Love and Friendship 2002
Various Artists
Music For Little People / Rhino 4:18
Jukebox Hits of the '70s [Collectables] 2002
Various Artists
Collectables 4:19
40 Years of Jukebox Hits: The 50's, 60's, 70's & 80's 2002
Various Artists
Collectables 4:19
Lean on Me 2002 Collectables 4:18
Pure Slow Jams 2002
Various Artists
Hip-O 3:47
Soul Hits of the '70s [Sony Box Set] 2002
Various Artists
Immediate 4:20
Platinum Soul Legends 2002
Various Artists
Warner Strategic Marketing
Midnight Soul [Madacy] 2003
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 4:19
Top Hits of the Seventies: Chart Toppers 2003
Various Artists
Collectables 3:58
Rhythm, Love and Soul: The Sexiest Songs of R&B [Shout] 2003
Various Artists
Shout! Factory 4:17
Best of Soul Let's Get It On 2003
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 4:18
Biggest Hits of the 70's [Sony] 2003
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 4:20
Just as I Am/Still Bill 2003 Raven 4:19
The Very Best of 1970s 2003
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 4:18
Oldies: Forever Young 2004
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 4:18
Love Album 2003 2004
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 4:19
Straight from the Heart [Box Set] 2004
Various Artists
Universal Special Products 4:19
Remember the 70's: Greatest Hits Live 2004
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution
No Image 2004
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 4:18
National Trust: The Wedding Album 2005
Various Artists
Sony Music 4:20
No Image 2005
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution
Lovely Day: The Very Best of Bill Withers 2005 Sony Music Distribution 4:18
MTV Asia Aid [#1] 2005
Various Artists
Universal Distribution 4:18
Always & Forever: All Time Greatest Slow Jams, Vol. 2 2006
Various Artists
Infinity Entertainment Group / American Beat Records 4:19
'70s: Gold 2006
Various Artists
Hip-O 4:17
Ultimate Soul Collection [Sony] 2006
Various Artists
Sony CMG / Sony Music 4:19
Billboard #1s: The '70s 2006
Various Artists
Rhino 3:47
Body + Soul Gospel 2006
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 4:19
The Best of Love 2006
Various Artists
Apace 4:18
The Best of Love [Apace] 2006
Various Artists
Apace 4:18
70's Collection 2007
Various Artists
Flashback Records
Best of Bill Withers [MTG] 2007 MTG Productions
No Image 2007 Sony Music Distribution
No Image 2007
Various Artists
BMG / Sony Music Distribution 4:18
No Image 2007
Various Artists
Sbme Special Mkts. / Sony Music
Classic Soul Ballads [Time Life Box Set] 2007
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 4:20
Ain't No Sunshine: The Best of Bill Withers 2008 Music Club Records / Music Club Deluxe 4:19
No Image 2008
Various Artists
sbc
No Image 2008
Various Artists
Sony BMG
Collections 2008 Sony BMG 4:19
Ultimate Gospel 2008
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 4:20
The Pop Years: 1972-1973 2009
Various Artists
Crimson Productions 4:18
Playlist: The Very Best of Bill Withers 2009 Columbia / Legacy 5:57
The Best Year of My Life: 1972 2009
Various Artists
Sony Music
Sweet Soul of the '70s: I've Got Love on My Mind 2009
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 4:19
The  Pop Years: The 70s 2010
Various Artists
Crimson / Crimson Productions / Zoom
S.O.U.L. 2011 Sony Music 4:18
Sweet Soul of the '70s [Time Life] 2011
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 4:19
Essential R&B, Vol. 1 2011
Various Artists
Real Talk Entertainment
Pure... Soul 2011
Various Artists
Sony Music 4:19
Haynes Ultimate Guide to the 70s 2011
Various Artists
Sony Music 4:17
Smooth Soul [Time Life] 2012
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 4:19
Hallelujah 2012
Various Artists
Sony Music 4:18
Proud [Sony] 2012
Various Artists
Sony Music 4:18
The Complete Sussex and Columbia Albums 2012 Legacy 5:47
Forever Friends: Someone Special 2013
Various Artists
Sony Music 4:17
World's Best Mum 2013 2013
Various Artists
Sony Music 4:19
The Essential Bill Withers 2013 Sony Music
The Box Set Series: '70s Soul 2014
Various Artists
Legacy / Legacy Recordings 4:17
100 Hits: Ultimate Soul 2014
Various Artists
100 Hits 4:19
No Image 2015
Various Artists
Legacy
100 Essential Tracks: Singer-Songwriter Hits
Various Artists
Sony Music
100 Tubes Soul, Vol. 2
Various Artists
Warner Music
Brushfire Aid: Artists for the Brushfire Appeal
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 4:19
De Pre Historie: 1972, Vol. 1
Various Artists
Eva 4:18
Disco Greats [Sony]
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 4:18
Forever Friends: Always and Forever
Various Artists
Sony Music 4:17
Lean on Me [Hallmark]
Various Artists
Hallmark Recordings 4:19
Lovely Day: The Best Of Bill Withers sbc 4:18
Pure... Acoustic
Various Artists
Sony Music 5:50
The Old Grey Whistle Test: Soul
Various Artists
Rhino
Ultimate... 70s
Various Artists
Sony Music 4:17
blue highlight denotes editor's pick