“Lovely Day” by Bill Withers
Many analysts have classified Bill Withers’ “Lovely Day” as a feel-good song, which indeed it is. But the vocalist’s “lovely” disposition doesn’t tell the entire story or even, in reality, capture the main point. And that is because what the singer is actually attributing this feeling to isn’t a general appreciation of nature or anything like that but rather his relationship with the addressee.
Or as phrased in the chorus, when he ‘looks at’ this individual, then “the world is alright”. But prior to doing so, he’s just as cranky as any other dude who wakes up on the wrong side of the bed and is pessimistic about “the day that lies ahead of” him.
In fact based on the implied chronology of the first verse leading into the chorus, one would presume that the addressee is his lover, i.e. the first person Bill would see upon waking up in the morning. But such is not specified, and based on Withers’ own explanation of this piece, it’s not romance that inspired him to write “Lovely Day”.
So without making any presumptions, this song is easy enough to understand. The vocalist, as with many of us, sometimes arises in the morning completely uninspired.
If we are allowed to make one solid presumption, it would appear that he’s faced with some type of task he either doesn’t believe he can achieve and/or is just flat out something he doesn’t want to do. But the addressee, whoever that individual may be, helps him to realize that it ain’t even that serious, if you will.
Or let’s say that whether he accomplishes the said goal or not, it is still “a lovely day” nonetheless. And for the record, it was in fact “an optimist” friend of Bill Withers (who is also the co-writer of this piece) who, even if the song possesses an inferred romantic connotation, prompted him to write lyrics such as these.
Facts about “Lovely Day”
This song can be considered the highlight of Bill Withers’ sixth studio album, Menagerie, also serving as the opening track on the album’s playlist. And it was released as such, by Columbia Records, on 16 December 1977.
Of course the one single factor that really makes this song most memorable is its extremely long vocal note. Actually the song possesses one of the longest vocal notes ever recorded in pop music. The vocal note in question is approximately 18 seconds in length.
That stands as a true testament of Bill Withers’ musical gifts during his peak decade of the 1970s. This is on top of the fact that he co-wrote and co-produced Lovely Day also.
It would seem that Lovely Day was also apparently the only single issued from Menagerie. And it performed well, making it onto the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 and UK Singles Chart, in addition to reaching number 1 in France. Furthermore, the tune has also been certified platinum in the UK and Australia. It also achieved gold certification in Italy based solely on sales from the 2010s to the present. And generally speaking, it is considered to be a classic song from the 1970s.
To note, the 1988 remix of Lovely Day, as rendered by Dutch musician Ben Liebrand, charted higher on the UK Singles Chart (#4) than the original (#7).
Other Notable Covers
This song has been covered by other artists to chart success. For instance, a British group called Central Line managed to make it onto the UK Singles Chart with their 1983 rendition. And an act from the US called The S.O.U.L. S.Y.S.T.E.M. appeared on the Billboard Hot 100 and UK Singles Chart with their 1992 version. This rendition was also featured on the Kevin Costner / Whitney Houston film The Bodyguard.
Another notable cover of this tune came in January of 2021. This was when Demi Lovato sang it as part of “Celebrating America”, which was basically a party in honor of President Joe Biden’s inauguration.
Another interesting rendition came in 2003 via Luther Vandross’s last studio album, Dance with My Father. On that version, the crooner covered Lovely Day in conjunction with hype rapper Busta Rhymes.
Composing and Recording of “Lovely Day”
The other writer of this song was the late Skip Scarborough (1944-2003). And even though he authored the music, not the lyrics, his personality was Bill Withers’ inspiration in that latter regard.
And the co-producer of “Lovely Day”, besides Withers, was Clarence MacDonald (circa 1944-2021).