July 8, 1972: Bill Withers' 'Lean on Me' Tops Billboard


On July 8, 1972, Bill Withers’s song “Lean on Me” topped the Billboard charts for the first time. Rolling Stone magazine later ranked “Lean on Me” as the 205th greatest song of all time.

The Raleigh County native wrote the tune while thinking about the close community ties he experienced in Beckley and in the nearby mining camp of Slab Fork. It was in Beckley where Withers first honed his skills by singing gospel music.

In 1972, “Lean on Me” bumped Neil Diamond’s “Song Sung Blue” from the number one slot and held on to the top spot for three weeks before giving way to Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “Alone Again, Naturally.”

Withers had had his first hit the previous year with his Grammy-winning song “Ain’t No Sunshine.” He’d later win another Grammy for “Just the Two of Us” and a third one as a songwriter for Club Nouveau’s cover of “Lean on Me.” Bill Withers, who also penned such classics as “Use Me” and “Grandma’s Hands,” is a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, West Virginia Music Hall of Fame, and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.