♫ Just The Two Of Us ♫

There seems to be a steady stream of songs that run through my head these days.  I no sooner banish one ear worm than another pops in.  No wonder there isn’t room in my head for coherent thoughts … it is filled up with tunes!  Ah well, they are all good tunes, old friends as it were.  Last night, when I was in search of a good version of Pastime Paradise, Google recommended another … Just the Two of Us … released in 1980 by Grover Washington and Bill Withers.

Grover Washington was a very respected Jazz saxophone player who died of a heart attack in 1999. Bill Withers is a songwriter and vocalist responsible for songs like Lean On Me and Ain’t No Sunshine. Withers sang lead on this, but it was credited to Washington and appeared on his album.

According to Withers …

“I’m a little snobbish about words, so they sent me this song and said ‘We want to do this with Grover, would you consider singing it?’ I said, ‘Yeah, if you’ll let me go in and try to dress these words up a little bit.’ Everybody that knows me is kind of used to me that way. I probably threw in the stuff like the crystal raindrops. The ‘Just The Two Of Us’ thing was already written. It was trying to put a tuxedo on it. I didn’t like what was said leading up to ‘Just The Two Of Us.'”

When Withers went in to record his vocals, it was the first time he met Washington. They were rarely together when they recorded this, and they never got to know each other very well. Withers admired Washington because Grover did the first cover version of any song he’d written – an instrumental version of Ain’t No Sunshine that appeared on his first album.

Just the Two of Us
Grover Washington Jr.

I see the crystal raindrops fall
And the beauty of it all
Is when the sun comes shining through
To make those rainbows in my mind
When I think of you sometime
And I wanna spend some time with you

Just the two of us
We can make it if we try
Just the two of us
(Just the two of us)
Just the two of us
Building castles in the sky
Just the two of us
You and I

We look for love, no time for tears
Wasted water’s all that is
And it don’t make no flowers grow
Good things might come to those who wait
Not for those who wait too late
We gotta go for all we know

Just the two of us
We can make it if we try
Just the two of us
(Just the two of us)
Just the two of us
Building them castles in the sky
Just the two of us
You and I

I hear the crystal raindrops fall
On the window down the hall
And it becomes the morning dew
And darling when the morning comes
And I see the morning sun
I wanna be the one with you

Just the two of us
We can make it if we try
Just the two of us, just
(Just the two of us)
Just the two of us
Building big castles way up high
Just the two of us
You and I

(Just the two of us)
(We can make it, just the two of us)
(Just the two of us)

Songwriters: Ralph Mac Donald / William Salter / William Harrison Withers Jr.
Medley: Just the Two of Us lyrics © Bleunig Music, BMG Rights Management

♫ Ain’t No Sunshine ♫

Bill Withers was 31 years old, working at a factory making toilet seats for 747s in 1971 when he wrote Ain’t No Sunshine. Casey Kasem reported that when the song went gold, the record company presented Withers with a golden toilet, marking the start of his new career.

Withers was inspired to write this song after watching the 1962 movie Days of Wine and Roses. He explained, in reference to the characters played by Lee Remick and Jack Lemmon, “They were both alcoholics who were alternately weak and strong. It’s like going back for seconds on rat poison. 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.”

For the song’s third verse, Withers had intended to write more lyrics instead of repeating the phrase “I know” 26 times, but then followed the advice of Booker T. Jones, who would later become the front-man for Booker T. and the M.G.s, he left it alone.  Graham Nash and Stephen Stills, both of Crosby, Stills and Nash fame, concurred, so …

“I wasn’t going to do that, then Booker T. said, ‘No, leave it like that.’ I was going to write something there, but there was a general consensus in the studio. It was an interesting thing because I’ve got all these guys that were already established, and I was working in the factory at the time. Graham Nash was sitting right in front of me, just offering his support. Stephen Stills was playing and there was Booker T. and Al Jackson and Donald Dunn – all of the MGs except Steve Cropper. They were all these people with all this experience and all these reputations, and I was this factory worker just sort of puttering around. So when their general feeling was, ‘Leave it like that,’ I left it like that.”

Besides Michael Jackson, this has been covered by many artists in a wide range of styles. Paul McCartney, Isaac Hayes, Lionel Hampton, Prince, Sting, Kenny Rogers, Tom Jones and Lighthouse Family have all recorded it.  I cannot recall having heard any of the others, and would check out at least the McCartney and Rogers versions tonight, but … sigh … ’tis the night before Thanksgiving, I’ve been in the kitchen half the day and must get up early to chop veggies for homemade stuffing and put the bird in the oven, so I will pass on the other versions for tonight.

I debated between playing this song or Just The Two Of Us … I love them both, but this one came to mind first, as I found myself in the kitchen, singing … “I know, I know, I know, I know …” 

Ain’t No Sunshine
Bill Withers

Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone
It’s not warm when she’s away
Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone
And she’s always gone too long
Anytime she goes away

Wonder this time where she’s gone
Wonder if she’s gone to stay
Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone
And this house just ain’t no home
Anytime she goes away

And I know, I know, I know, I know,
I know, I know, I know, I know, I know
I know, I know, I know, I know, I know
I know, I know, I know, I know, I know
I know, I know, I know, I know, I know
I know, I know,
Hey, I oughtta leave young thing alone
But ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone

Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone
Only darkness every day
Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone
And this house just ain’t no home
Anytime she goes away
Anytime she goes away
Anytime she goes away
Anytime she goes away

Songwriters: Bill Withers
Ain’t No Sunshine – Single Version lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, BMG Rights Management