The Soul Man Who Wouldn't Give Up His Day Job


In early 1970, Bill Withers was signed to Sussex Records, but because of a lack of funding, his hit song “Ain’t No Sunshine” wasn’t released until 1971. By his own account, his career lasted just eight years, during which time he wrote hit songs like “Lean On Me,” “Lovely Day,” and “Just the Two of Us.” What people don’t know is that just prior to recording his first record, Withers was working at an aircraft parts factory in Santa Clara, California, and refused to leave his job because he believed that music business was a fickle industry. He was being paid $3 an hour at the factory — which was good because the minimum wage at the time was $1.25 an hour. Ironically, Withers was laid off just nine months before the release of his first album. One day, two letters came in the mail — one asking him to come back to work, the other inviting him to appear on The Tonight Show. That was when Withers finally left the factory job behind. At the time of his death in March of this year, he had a net worth of $40 million. His decision was clearly a good call.