Lean on Me (song)

"Lean on Me"
Single by Bill Withers
from the album Still Bill
B-side "Better Off Dead"
Released April 21, 1972
Recorded 1972
Genre Soul
Length 4:17 (Album Version)
3:45 (Single Version)
Label Sussex
Writer(s) Bill Withers
Producer(s) Bill Withers
Certification Gold (RIAA)
Bill Withers singles chronology
"Grandma's Hands"
"Lean on Me"
"Use Me"

"Lean on Me" is a song written and recorded by American singer-songwriter Bill Withers. It was released in April 1972 as the first single from his second album, Still Bill. It was his first and only number one single on both the soul singles and the Billboard Hot 100.[1] Billboard ranked it as the No. 7 song of 1972.[2] It is ranked number 205 on Rolling Stone's list of "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time".[3] Numerous cover versions have been recorded, and it is one of only nine songs to have reached No. 1 with versions recorded by two different artists.[4]

Background and writing

Withers' childhood in the coal mining town of Slab Fork, West Virginia,[5] was the inspiration for "Lean on Me", which he wrote after he had moved to Los Angeles and found himself missing the strong community ethic of his hometown. He lived in a decrepit house in the poor section of town.

Withers recalled to Songfacts the original inspiration for the song:

"I bought a little piano and I was sitting there just running my fingers up and down the piano. In the course of doing the music, that phrase crossed my mind, so then you go back and say, 'OK, I like the way that phrase, Lean On Me, sounds with this song.'" [6]

Several members of the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band were used for the recording session in 1972. A string section was also included as well.

Wither's version is noted for its Bridge section: ("Just call on me, brother"), as well as the Coda section, where the words: Call Me," is repeated a total of 14 times, before the song ends on a cadenza on the strings. Several radio stations, as well as the single version, fade out during the repeated Coda, due to time limits as well as the repetition of the lyrics. Some radio versions cut the number of "Call Me's" to six times before the song's end.


Track listings

7" single

  1. Lean On Me 3:45
  2. Better Off Dead 2:13


Chart (1972) Peak
Canada Top Singles (RPM)[7] 20
UK Singles (Official Charts Company) 18
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 1
U.S. Billboard Hot Soul Singles 1
U.S. Billboard Easy Listening 4
Preceded by
"Song Sung Blue" by Neil Diamond
Billboard Hot 100 number-one single
July 8, 1972 (three weeks)
Succeeded by
"Alone Again (Naturally)" by Gilbert O'Sullivan
Preceded by
"Woman's Gotta Have It" by Bobby Womack
Billboard Best Selling Soul Singles number-one single
June 24, 1972 (one week)
Succeeded by
"Outa-Space" by Billy Preston

Club Nouveau version

"Lean On Me"
Single by Club Nouveau
from the album Life, Love & Pain
Released 20 March 1987
Recorded 1986
Genre R&B, soul, funk, new jack swing

5:56 (LP version)

3:58 (radio edit)
Label Warner Bros.
Writer(s) Bill Withers
Producer(s) Jay King
Certification Gold (RIAA)
Club Nouveau singles chronology
"Situation #9"
"Lean On Me"
"Why You Treat Me So Bad"

The R&B group Club Nouveau covered the song and took it to number one for two weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 charts in 1987.[8] It also reached number one on the dance charts,[8] and number two on the Black Singles charts, kept out of the top spot by Jodi Watley's "Looking for a New Love". It won a Grammy award in 1987 for Bill Withers, as the writer, for Best R&B Song.[9]

Track listings

7" Single

  1. "Lean On Me" 3:58
  2. "Pump It Up (Lean On Me) (Reprise)" 2:38

12" Single

  1. "Lean On Me (Remix)" 7:42
  2. "Lean On Me (LP Version)" 5:56
  3. "Pump It Up (Lean On Me) (Remix)" 4:51
  4. "Pump It Up (Lean On Me) (Reprise - LP Version)" 2:38


Chart (1987) Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report)[10] 5
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[11] 22
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[12] 12
Canada Top Singles (RPM) 1
Germany (Official German Charts)[13] 9
Ireland (IRMA) 5
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[14] 4
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[15] 1
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[16] 7
UK Singles (The Official Charts Company) 3
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 1
U.S. Billboard Hot Dance Club Play 1
U.S. Billboard Hot Black Singles 2
Preceded by
"Jacob's Ladder" by Huey Lewis and the News
Billboard Hot 100 number-one single
March 21, 1987 (two weeks)
Succeeded by
"Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" by Starship
Preceded by
"Looking for a New Love" by Jody Watley
Billboard Hot Dance Club Play number-one single
April 18, 1987 (one week)
Succeeded by
"The Telephone Call" by Kraftwerk
Preceded by
"Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" by Starship
Canadian Singles Chart
April 11, 1987 (three weeks)
Succeeded by
"Don't Dream It's Over" by Crowded House
Preceded by
"Don't Dream It's Over" by Crowded House
New Zealand Singles Chart
May 1, 1987 (six weeks)
Succeeded by
"Livin' on a Prayer" by Bon Jovi

2-4 Family cover version

"Lean on Me (with the Family)"
Single by 2-4 Family
from the album Family Business
Released January 30, 1999
Recorded 1998
Genre Hip hop
Length 3:38 (Radio Version)
Label Epic
Writer(s) Bill Withers
Producer(s) Alex Trime, Sven "Delgado" Jordan
2-4 Family singles chronology
"Lean on Me (with The Family)"
"Take Me Home"

In 1999, 2-4 Family released "Lean on Me (with the Family)", a cover version with a hip hop arrangement and additional lyrics. Epic Records published a 12-inch single and a CD maxi single in Germany.[17]

In 2008, several years after the dissolution of 2-4 Family, founding band-member Mike Johnson performed the song with backing vocalists and dancers at the Eurovision Song Content in Bulgaria.

Track listings

12" single

  1. Lean on Me (with The Family) (Special radio version) 3:58
  2. Lean on Me (with The Family) (DSP mix) 4:04
  3. 9 Lives (Album Version) 4:06
  4. Stay (Special Radio Version) 4:12
  5. Lean on Me (with The Family) (Lounge mix) 6:38
  6. Stay (Jay's D-Style Mix) 4:15

CD maxi single

  1. Lean on Me (with The Family) (Radio version) 3:38
  2. Lean on Me (with The Family) (DSP mix) 4:04
  3. Lean on Me (with The Family) (Lounge mix) 6:38
  4. Lean on Me (with The Family) (Special radio version) 3:58
  5. Stay (Jay's D-Style mix) 4:15
  6. 9 Lives (Album version) 4:06


Chart (1999) Peak
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[18] 6
Germany (Official German Charts)[19] 9
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[20] 7

In popular culture

The song is frequently played at charity events. Avril Lavigne and Heart made a duet singing this song at the 17th Race To Erase MS event in May 2010.[21] Kid Rock, Sheryl Crow and Keith Urban performed the song at the 2010 Hope for Haiti earthquake relief telethon.

The song was used in a 1970s drug awareness film titled Dead Is Dead, hosted and produced by actor Godfrey Cambridge.

The original and Club Nouveau version was featured in the 1989 film Lean on Me, starring Morgan Freeman.

Mary J. Blige performed this song at the HBO We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial.[22] The next day, a crowd spontaneously began singing the song in the Purple Tunnel of Doom under the National Mall as they waited to gain entrance to the inauguration ceremonies.[23]

The song plays at the end of "Radioactive Man", an episode of The Simpsons, when two film producers return to Hollywood after a movie failure.

Early TV comedy sketch parodies of Lean on me Beautiful included a famous sketch on In Living Color where Joe Louis Clark is played by Keenen Ivory Wayans.

Paula Abdul and The Muppets performed this song on a 1997 episode of Muppets Tonight.

On the fourth season of Martin, Martin and the crew sang the song in the hospital in the episode, "Why Can't We Be Friends" that was broadcast in 1996.

Brian Eno, Michael Stipe and Stephen Colbert sang an a cappella version of the song on The Colbert Report that was first broadcast on November 10, 2011.

Club Nouveau's cover is played over the credits of Escape Plan (video game).

Other cover versions

"Lean on Me" has been interpreted by various other artists including Mud (1976), Al Jarreau (1985), Club Nouveau (1986), DC Talk (1992), Michael Bolton (1993), Bonnie Tyler (1999), Anne Murray (1999), The Temptations and Mark Medlock (2011).

In 1989, covers of "Lean on Me" by The Winans and Sandra Reaves-Phillips provided the emotional uplift for the film, Lean on Me. For the same film, the song was adapted by Big Daddy Kane in "hip hop" form.[24]

Jack Vidgen recorded a version of the song for his album Inspire.

In 2004, Glen Campbell recorded the song on his album Love Is the Answer: 24 Songs of Faith, Hope and Love.

The rapper Majid featuring Burhan G made a rap song entitled "Lean On Me". The song contains the same introduction words as the original, with Burhan G doing the refrain from the song; however, it otherwise has different lyrics.

Mitchel Musso recorded a version of the song for the 2008 film Snow Buddies.[25]

Glee recorded a version of the song for the "Ballad" episode, in which the glee club sings it to fellow members Finn and Quinn.[26]

Garth Brooks released a version in his Blame It All on My Roots: Five Decades of Influences box set in 2013.

The Canadian Tenors released their own version in the album Under One Sky published in 2015.[27]


  1. Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 633.
  2. Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles of 1972
  3. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on June 25, 2008. Retrieved 2007-11-22.
  4. "Cover Me: Same Songs to Hit No. 1 By Two Different Artists". Archived from the original on December 28, 2012.
  5. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on October 1, 2007. Retrieved 2007-05-22.
  6. "Lean On Me by Bill Withers Songfacts". Songfacts.com. Retrieved 2016-10-07.
  7. "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. Retrieved 2016-10-07.
  8. 1 2 "Artist Chart History - Club Nouveau". Billboard Music Charts. Retrieved June 6, 2009.
  9. "Bill Withers Biography". Billwithers.com. pp. 8th Paragraph;Last Sentence. Archived from the original on August 29, 2011. Retrieved June 6, 2009.
  10. Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (Illustrated ed.). St. Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 67. ISBN 0-646-11917-6. N.B. the Kent Report chart was licensed by ARIA between mid 1983 and June 19, 1988.
  11. "Austriancharts.at – Club Nouveau – Lean on Me" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40.
  12. "Ultratop.be – Club Nouveau – Lean on Me" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
  13. "Musicline.de – Club Nouveau Single-Chartverfolgung" (in German). Media Control Charts. PhonoNet GmbH.
  14. "Nederlandse Top 40 – Club Nouveau search results" (in Dutch) Dutch Top 40.
  15. "Charts.org.nz – Club Nouveau – Lean on Me". Top 40 Singles.
  16. "Swisscharts.com – Club Nouveau – Lean on Me". Swiss Singles Chart.
  17. "Lean on Me (with The Family)" at Discogs (list of releases)
  18. "Austriancharts.at – 2-4 Family – Lean on Me (With the Family)" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40.
  19. "Musicline.de – 2-4 Family Single-Chartverfolgung" (in German). Media Control Charts. PhonoNet GmbH.
  20. "Swisscharts.com – 2-4 Family – Lean on Me (With the Family)". Swiss Singles Chart.
  21. "17th Annual Race to Erase MS raises $2 million!". Erasems.org. May 10, 2010. Retrieved June 17, 2010.
  22. Anderson, Erica; Kaufman, Gil. "Live From The "We Are One" Inaugural Concert". MTV News. pp. Entry titled: "Gil, 2:52 p.m.". Retrieved June 6, 2009.
  23. "Cursed Purple Tickets (or, how I worked for two years to get Obama elected and then couldn't view the Inauguration)". Barackoblogger.com. January 20, 2009. Retrieved June 19, 2010.
  24. "Lean On Me: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack". Amazon.com. Retrieved June 6, 2009.
  25. "The Official Disney Snow Buddies Movie and DVD Website (About the Movie --> DVD Bonus Features)". Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. Retrieved June 6, 2009.
  26. Goldman, Eric (November 19, 2009). "'Glee: "Ballad" Review". IGN. News Corporation. Retrieved December 7, 2009.
  27. Matt Collar (2015-06-02). "Under One Sky - The Tenors | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-10-07.

External links

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