Bill Withers Was Inspired to Write ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ by 2 Movie Characters

Songwriter Bill Withers has multiple iconic songs that he wrote throughout his career. One of them is “Ain’t No Sunshine.”

The heartbreaking song might sound like it’s inspired from a breakup, but two movie characters actually led Withers to writing it. Find out which movie they’re from and what he said about their story.

Bill Withers died at the age of 81

Bill Withers
Bill Withers speaks onstage at Reel To Reel: Chuck Berry: Brown Eyed Handsome Man at the GRAMMY Museum | Rebecca Sapp/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

Withers died on March 30 from heart complications, according to the Associated Press. His first hit was “Ain’t No Sunshine” back in 1971. He eventually won a Grammy for Best R&B song. It was then later inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

That was just the first of his many iconic songs. He later released “Lean on Me,” “Lovely Day,” “Just the Two of Us,” and more. Withers’ family gave a statement to the Associated Press.

“We are devastated by the loss of our beloved, devoted husband and father. A solitary man with a heart driven to connect to the world at large, with his poetry and music, he spoke honestly to people and connected them to each other,” the statement read. “As private a life as he lived close to intimate family and friends, his music forever belongs to the world. In this difficult time, we pray his music offers comfort and entertainment as fans hold tight to loved ones.”

“Lean On Me” was performed at the inaugurations of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Clinton has since tweeted a statement in response to the news.

“I love listening to Bill Withers sing. Today as we mourn his death, we should lean into the sentiment of one of his most loved songs: lean on each other when times are tough and know that there’s always tomorrow. May he rest in peace,” tweeted his official account.

He was inspired by ‘Days Of Wine And Roses’

The 1962 movie showed two characters with an alcohol addiction, Kirsten (Lee Remick) and Joe (Jack Lemmon.) Joe works in public relations and Kirsten works as a secretary. They fall in love but then their relationship goes sour.

Withers said he was inspired to write “Ain’t No Sunshine” after watching the movie. “I was watching a movie called Days Of Wine And Roses with Lee Remick and Jack Lemmon,” he told Song Facts. “They were both alcoholics who were alternately weak and strong. It’s like going back for seconds on rat poison.”

He continued, “Sometimes you miss things that weren’t particularly good for you. It’s just something that crossed my mind from watching that movie, and probably something else that happened in my life that I’m not aware of.”

The songwriter went on to talk about his experience watching the drama. “Watching the movie probably affected me and made me stop long enough to putz around, and that phrase crossed my mind, so you just kind of go from there,” he said.

“Ain’t No Sunshine” has gone on to be heard in movies including When We Were Kings and Notting Hill.