Grandma's Hands

Album: Just As I Am (1971)
Charted: 42
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Songfacts®:

  • Withers grew up in the rural town of Slab Fork, West Virginia, and his Grandma Galloway was a huge influence in his life, nurturing him and telling him that others would someday appreciate what he had to offer. As the lyrics say, she really did look after unwed mothers in the area as well as her own family. In the 2009 documentary Still Bill, Withers explains, "I learned how to really love somebody from just a nice old lady. My favorite thing that I've written has to be about this favorite old lady of mine." Withers had a stuttering problem and got picked on a lot as a kid. He adds, "Grandmothers tend to gravitate toward the weak kid. I wonder what it would have been like if my grandmothers had been on crack. You can tell how much difference it makes in people’s lives when they get good ones." (check out our interview with Bill Withers)
  • Withers was 32 years old when he started recording, and he had no ambitions of stardom. Recording for the small label Sussex Records, he was able to make music on his terms. This allowed him to write about what was important to him, without concern for how marketable his songs would be. When Sussex records went out of business and Withers started recording for Columbia, he struggled with the corporate culture and pressure from the A&R staff. Withers cites this as an example of a song that he never could have recorded with Columbia, since songs about grandmothers were not on their agenda.
  • This song about a kindly grandmother resonated with many musicians who have covered it over the years. It has been recorded by Barbra Streisand, Esther Williams, Tony Orlando, Al Jarreau, Will Downing, Gladys Knight, Keb' Mo', Gil Scott-Heron, Livingston Taylor, and The Staple Singers.
  • The 1996 Blackstreet hit "No Diggity" is based on a sample from this song.

Comments: 2

  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn this day in 1971 {October 30th} Bill Withers performed "Grandma's Hands" on the syndicated TV program, 'Soul Train'...
    A week later it entered Billboard's Soul Singles chart at #43, three weeks later it peaked at #18 {for 3 weeks}...
    "Grandma's Hands" reached #16 on Billboard's Adult Contemporary Tracks chart and #42 on the Top 100 chart...
    Between 1971 and 1985 the Slab Fork, West Virginia native had twenty-four records on the Soul Singles chart, seven made the Top 10, with one
    reaching #1, "Lean On Me", for one week in June of 1972...
    Three of his twenty-four charted records were duets, one with Bobby Womack {It's All Over Now", #68 in 1975}, one with Grover Washinton, Jr., {"Just The Two of Us", #3 in 1981}, and one with Ralph McDonald {"In The Name of Love", #13 in 1984}...
    Bill Withers, born William Harrison Withers, Jr., passed away at the age of 81 on March 30th, 2020...
    R.I.P. to both Mr. Withers and Don Corneius {1936 - 2012}...
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn October 24th 1971, "Grandma's Hands" by Bill Withers entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #86; and on November 28th, 1971 it peaked at #42 {for 2 weeks} and spent 8 weeks on the Top 100...
    It reached #18 on Billboard's R&B Singles chart...
    The song was preceded on the Top 100 by his #3 hit "Ain't No Sunshine"; and succeeded by "Lead On Me", which peaked at #1 {for 3 weeks} followed by "Use Me", it reached #2 {for 2 weeks}...
    William Harrison Withers, Jr. celebrated his 76th birthday three months ago on the 4th of July {2014}.
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