Club Nouveau’s ‘Lean On Me’: 30 Years Later

(photo credit: facebook.com fan page)

(photo credit: facebook.com)

In 1986, R&B group, Club Nouveau, released their album, Life, Love & Pain with incredible success. The group was born due to the group Timex Social Club going their separate ways by signing with another record label. The producers of Timex Social Club broke ties with the group and launched the group JetSet, which later became Club Nouveau, a French name translated as New Club.

Their sound along with their eclectic style was the perfect combination of disco, funk and R&B that was embraced by mainstream music audiences everywhere.

“We made music the way we felt it based on our experiences and what we were listening to,” says producer and singer Jay King. “In particular, Pop and R&B were really starting to homogenize and morph into each other. Especially in the 1960s and 1970s there was a definite sound of what was Pop and R&B music. There were a few R&B bands that had crossed over into the Pop mainstream, but for the most part Pop was Pop and R&B was R&B.”

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After the success of their first two hits, ‘Jealousy’ and ‘Rumors,’ the third single gave Club Nouveau unprecedented success by landing their first #1 record. ‘Lean On Me’ was a remake of the classic 1972 Bill Withers song. The song peaked at #1 on the Billboard Dance Chart, Billboard Hot 100 Chart, New Zealand Singles Chart, #2 on the Billboard R&B Chart and #3 on the UK Singles Chart.

King shares how the song came together.

“‘Lean On Me’ was one of those songs we did a few times before we got it just right,” says King. “We had to play with it and get it the way we wanted it sound for it to be ‘the record.’ The song was really fashioned after what was happening in Go-Go music. Denny and I would listen to Go-Go music late at night because that’s what would be on BET. At that time, BET would play a lot of Red and The Boys and whatever was happening in the Washington, DC area. So we would go to Tower Records and get those albums and listen to them.

“The rest of the group went over to the Caribbean islands, but I couldn’t go because I had business to tend to here for us. And part of the song where we say, ‘We Be Jammin’, Hey!’ came directly from the group’s visit over there. We didn’t know we were going to have that type of impact with “Lean On Me” it was just a song for us to remake. Bill Withers left a lot of room for interpretation. He is such a great writer and a lot of his songs can be interpreted in a 100 different ways depending on who is doing them. We happened to come up with something that really worked.”

The song was catchy and felt good, but it was the lyrics that are still needed now, more than ever before. Take a look:

Sometimes in our lives we all have pain
We all have sorrow
But if we are wise
We know that there’s always tomorrow

Lean on me, when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend
I’ll help you carry on
For it won’t be long
‘Til I’m gonna need
Somebody to lean on

Please swallow your pride
If I have things you need to borrow
For no one can fill those of your needs
That you don’t let show

Lean on me, when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend
I’ll help you carry on
For it won’t be long
‘Til I’m gonna need
Somebody to lean on

If there is a load you have to bear
That you can’t carry
I’m right up the road
I’ll share your load
If you just call me

So just call on me brother, when you need a hand
We all need somebody to lean on…

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