Oooh that opening bass line!
I am finishing this week of Song o’ Days with a number that is one of my all-time favorite mood-elevators, Bill Withers’ “Lovely Day.” This classic cut from a giant of 70’s soul music is a gift that keeps on giving. Jerry Knight’s opening funky bass line kicks off an affecting and uplifting song that acknowledges that not all lovely days start off that way.
Some contemporary popular musicians, such as Questlove, revere Bill Withers because he was a man that used the pop music industry before it used him. Withers grew up a stuttering child in the Jim Crow south and used a stint in the Navy to get escape West Virginia. He landed in southern California, overcame his stutter, taught himself guitar and composed a series of hits (”Lean On Me”, “Aint No Sunshine”, “Use Me”, “Just the Two of Us”) during a recording career that lasted only about a decade. He and his wife Marcia have closely guarded the rights to his catalogue of songs and their business savvy has set them up so that Withers did not need to continue to subject himself to the industry indignities so many of his peers faced.
I love this song because it gives voice to the challenges we all face and also gives us the musical ladder to climb towards a better day. A lovely day.
When the day that lies ahead of me
Seems impossible to face
When someone else instead of me
Always seems to know the way
Then I look at you
And the world’s alright with me
Just one look at you
And I know it’s gonna be
A lovely day
Bill Withers is a man that succeeded on his own terms, overcoming poverty, racism, a stutter and an industry that sought to exploit him. His story and his music are touchstones of hope, dignity and a sort of success that we can all aspire to. A true American.
PS. It bears repeating that I love and respect the NYFOS community and Steven’s enduring artistry. I appreciate this opportunity to share my slightly different experience and our shared love of Steven, NYFOS and popular song.
Monday’s NYFOS Sing For Your Supper – “A Goyishe Christmas to You – Yuletide Songs by Jewish Composers” at HENRY’s is sold out, but we do have an active wait list and we would love for you to join us. We will also have room for walk-ins at the bar. Come share the holiday spirit.
New York Festival of Song • One Penn Plaza • #6108 • New York, NY 10119 • 646-230-8380 • email@example.com