So sad, Charles Neville of The Neville Brothers died. I’ve been want­ing to do a song from the Brothers but I went look­ing for good live video and turned up their su­perb take on Ain’t no Sun­shine which ob­vi­ous­ly de­serves a spot, so re­al­ly to­day be­longs to Bill Wither­s, but I’m go­ing to use that Nevilles video’ which, ap­pro­pri­ate­ly, fea­tures Charles.

Peo­ple don’t ap­pre­ci­ate how to­tal­ly great they were. So many won­der­ful songs, live and record­ed, their con­certs sold out, par­tic­u­lar­ly any­thing at home in New Or­lean­s, and they sold quite a few record­s; but were nev­er re­al­ly big stars. OK, enough of that, I’ll re­al­ly try to throw them a Song of the Day be­fore this se­ries runs out of gas.

Charles Neville playing Ain’t No Sunshine

Charles Neville play­ing the big break
for the Brothers on Ain’t No Sun­shine.

Back to Ain’t no Sun­shine. Wow, it turns out Bill Withers is ap­par­ent­ly still alive at 79. He’s an­oth­er ace mu­si­cian who was nev­er a big star, al­though he sold a ton of records start­ing with Sun­shine in 1971. His sto­ry is in­ter­est­ing; he had a blue-collar job at an air­craft plant when he struck mu­si­cal gold, and was re­luc­tant to give it up be­cause he had a (well-justified) neg­a­tive opin­ion of the mu­sic busi­ness. Even­tu­al­ly, he walked away from that busi­ness in 1985.

The song’s got a his­to­ry; Withers was in­spired by the movie Days Of Our Lives star­ring Lee Remick and Jack Lem­mon. The orig­i­nal ver­sion was pro­duced by Book­er T. Jones and the band in­clud­ed Duck Dunn and Stephen Still­s. It’s been cov­ered by, and sold a lot of records for, lots of singer­s. The eth­nic an­gle is sort of amus­ing; writ­ten by a black guy in­spired by a super-white movie, the mu­sic is to­tal­ly middle-of-the-road pop, could be by ba­si­cal­ly any Amer­i­can song­writer; and then al­most all the mu­si­cians who cov­ered it were black too, in­clud­ing Michael Jack­son and Lady­smith Black Mam­bazo.

Ain’t No Sun­shine is ab­so­lute­ly one of the great­s; an arch­ing, aching melody, Bill’s voice pleas­ing­ly rich and raw, with the pro­duc­er keep­ing that all-star band way back be­hind it and deft­ly de­ploy­ing a small string sec­tion. And then the “I know, I know, I know…” break; there’s just noth­ing like that any­where else.

This is num­ber 118 in the Song of the Day se­ries (back­ground).

Links · Spo­ti­fy playlist. This tune on Spo­ti­fy, Ama­zon, iTunes. As for video, I’m not crazy about Bill Withers live; he takes the song too slow and tries to ap­ply “styling” but man, this tune just needs you to get out of the way. So let’s give the stage to the Neville Brothers; I love Charles’ break but even more his steady pulse be­hind Aaron’s vo­cal­s. Bye, Charles.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Bart Barry (May 02 2018, at 10:13)

Days of wine and roses. Days of our lives is a tv soap, nn?


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April 29, 2018
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