"A son of a West Virginia coal-miner and domestic servant, a black kid who hadn't even sung much growing up. The songs are sufficiently autobiographical -- "Grandma's Hands", "Harlem", "I'm Her Daddy" -- that this particular young guy with an acoustic guitar falls neatly within the "singer-songwriter" category of the 1970s, but the songs are sufficiently soulful that they also come out of the African-American tradition too. In the cover photo, the young Mr. Withers embodies that hybrid: a light-skinned black guy who is both carrying a lunch bucket and looking almost... preppy? The songs follow suit, featuring acoustic guitar yet gospel driven singing, being set by a band led by Booker T. Jones (the date's producer and leader of "The MGs") yet being sweetened occasionally by strings.
In the documentary featured on the DVD side of this "DualDisc", Mr. Withers is interviewed by critic Elvis Mitchell, who professes wonderment that a black man would be singing folk music accompanied by acoustic guitar. Mr. Withers understands the feeling, noting that his career not only came out of nowhere but also was not tampered with in the usual way for this first recording. "They let me do exactly what I wanted to do." And he notes, "I knew 'Ain't No Sunshine' was the best song on the record." Though it was released as the B-side to "Harlem", it blew up quickly and won Mr. Withers his first Grammy."
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