Lean on Me
Writer(s): Bill Withers (see lyrics here)
Released: April 21, 1972
First Charted: April 15, 1972
Peak: 13 US, 12 CB, 13 GR, 11 HR, 11 DG, 4 AC, 11 RB, 18 UK, 20 CN, 24 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)
Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, 0.4 UK
Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 3.0 radio, 84.3 video, 266.25 streaming
Lean on Me
Released: March 20, 1987
First Charted: February 6, 1987
Peak: 12 US, 12 CB, 2 GR, 12 RR, 12 BA, 31 AC, 2 RB, 3 UK, 13 CN, 5 AU, 5 DF (Click for codes to charts.)
Sales (in millions): 1.0 US
Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 3.0 radio, 6.7 video, 6.74 streaming
Awards (Bill Withers):
Click on award for more details.
Awards (Club Nouveau):
About the Song:
“Lean on Me” is one of the rare songs which topped the Billboard Hot 100 more than once – first in 1972 by Bill Withers and then again fifteen years later by Club Nouveau. It was the fifth song to hit #1 twice in the Hot 100 era by different artists. The others were “Go Away Little Girl” (Steve Lawrence, Donny Osmond), “The Loco-Motion” (Little Eva, Grand Funk), “Please Mr. Postman” (The Marvelettes, the Carpenters), and “Venus” (Shocking Blue, Bananarama). SG2 The two acts had very different careers. Withers was an R&B legend while Club Nouveau was an R&B dance outfit who were practically a one-hit wonder.
Withers was in the Navy for nine years before heading to Los Angeles to try and make it as a songwriter while working in an aircraft factory. He was 32 years old when “Ain’t No Sunshine” gave him his first chart hit – a top-ten on both the pop and R&B charts. He went on to chart with classics “Use Me,” “Lovely Day,” and “Just the Two of Us.”
Withers wrote “Lean on Me” as “a pledge of friendship, of support, through bad times.” SG1 He says his co-workers from the aircraft factory were an inspiration. FB It is “a hymn of deep human connection and mutual support.” SG2 He explained that he wasn’t writing about romantic love which is when “you only wanna touch people because they’re pretty and they appeal to you physically. The more substantial love is when you want to touch people and care for them when they’re at their worst.” SG1
He sings in a “warm, graceful baritone, and his melody is campfire-singalong stuff, direct and uncluttered.” SG1 It is “a perfect song…a soul classic, that’s practically become a folk traditional.” SG2
Withers retired from music in 1985. A year later, Club Nouveau formed by producer/songwriters Jay King, Denzil Foster, and Thomas McElroy, formerly of Timex Social Club, who had a top-10 hit with “Rumors” in 1986. Club Nouveau had a “hard, synthesized, club-ready version of R&B.” SG2 They released six albums, but only Life, Love & Pain left any kind of mark with the chart-topping “Lean on Me” and “Why You Treat Me So Bad,” which barely scraped the top 40.
Their version of “Lean on Me” “is an extremely smart record – cutting-edge trends in Black club-music production, applied to a beloved song that would immediately evoke baby-boomer nostalgia.” SG2 The Club Nouveau version merges electronic sounds with the original song’s piano line which can make for a certain coldness – a “bland, smiley dance track with a sticky hook” SG2 that “vacuum[s] all the nuance and feeling out of the song.” SG2
First posted 7/13/2023.