The Spring of 1987. Junior year of college about to end. I can’t wait for the last day of the semester. It had been a rocky three and a half months. Again, the music helped me out. And on my way out the door, I’m jamming this re-made classic:
That’s right. Club Nouveau. “Lean On Me.” Blasting from cars, radios, video shows, you name it. Of course, my mom scoffed at this new-style remake. Why? Because my mom remembers who originally sang that song. Still Bill. Perhaps one of the best singer/songwriters of the 70s.
That’s right. Bill Withers. One of the great songwriters of our time. If the greatness of a song can be measured by how popular it is in two distinctly different versions, then “Lean On Me” qualifies as a great song. Both versions hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, fifteen years apart. Only Withers’ version made #1 on the R&B side; Club Nouveau’s topped out at #2 for three weeks. Withers won a Grammy for Best R&B song—not for his version, but for Club Nouveau’s. Perhaps that was some kind of musical karma, or justice for not winning the award for his own version.
For Club Nouveau and Withers, the song represents a high point; it was the biggest hit for both. For Withers, it was one among many great songs that man wrote and sang through the 1970s. Need a list? Try “Ain’t No Sunshine,” for starters (it also won the Grammy for Best R&B song). “Grandma’s Hands.” The great “Who Is He (What Is He To You)?”—for my money, one of his greatest songs. “Use Me.” “Lovely Day.” Get the picture?
As for me, I’ll always jam that Club Nouveau. But Bill Withers owns “Lean On Me.” In a time when booing the President of the United States as he calls for unity is considered acceptable free speech, but peaceably kneeling while the National Anthem is played is considered unacceptable (albeit to some people in both cases), perhaps the sentiments expressed so eloquently by Withers and Club Nouveau should get a fresh hearing in this day and age.
That’s right. “Lean On Me.” The Morning Groove. Get yours. And thanks for reading and listening.