On this day in music history: July 8, 1972 – &…

On this day in music history: July 8, 1972 – “Lean On Me” by Bill Withers hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 3 weeks, also topping the R&B singles chart for 1 week on June 24, 1972. Written and produced by Bill Withers, it is the biggest hit for the singer, songwriter and musician from Slab Fork, WV. Withers is inspired to write the song after moving to Los Angeles from his small hometown in West Virginia. Missing the close community ties and support of his home, he writes it as a form of encouragement, to those who find themselves on their own, and without their friends and family to hold them up. Having purchased a new Wurlitzer electric piano, Withers spontaneously comes up with the main chord progression (C major, D major, and E major). In the studio, he records the track with members of the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band including James Gadson (drums), Melvin Dunlap (bass), Benorce Blackman (guitar) and Ray Jackson (keyboards). Issued as the first single from his second studio album “Still Bill” in March of 1972, it is an immediate smash. Entering the Hot 100 at #83 on April 22, 1972, it climbs to the top of the chart eleven weeks later. The song also wins Withers a Grammy Award in 1987 for Best R&B Song, after Club Nouveau’s cover version takes the song to number one for a second time in March of 1987. “Lean On Me” is later used as the title of a 1989 film directed by John G. Avildsen (“Rocky”, “The Karate Kid”) starring Morgan Freeman as Joe Louis Clark, the principal of a tough inner city high school in New Jersey. “Lean On Me” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.