Bill Withers, famed ‘Lean On Me’ singer-songwriter, dies at 81


Bill Withers, who wrote and sang a string of soulful songs within the 1970s which have stood the take a look at of time, together with “Lean On Me”, “Lovely Day” and “Ain’t No Sunshine”, has died from coronary heart issues, his household stated in an announcement on Friday. He was 81.

The three-time Grammy Award winner, who stopped making music within the mid-1980s, died on Monday in Los Angeles, the assertion stated. His loss of life comes as the general public has drawn inspiration from his music through the coronavirus pandemic, with healthcare employees, choirs, artists and extra posting their very own renditions on “Lean on Me” to assist get by the tough occasions.

“We are devastated by the loss of our beloved, devoted husband and father. A solitary man with a heart driven to connect to the world at large, with his poetry and music, he spoke honestly to people and connected them to each other,” the household assertion learn. “As private a life as he lived close to intimate family and friends, his music forever belongs to the world. In this difficult time, we pray his music offers comfort and entertainment as fans hold tight to loved ones.”

‘Last African American Everyman’

Withers’s songs throughout his transient profession have grow to be the soundtracks of numerous engagements, weddings and again yard events. They have highly effective melodies and excellent grooves melded with a easy voice that conveys honesty and complicated feelings with out vocal acrobatics.

“Lean On Me,” a paean to friendship, was carried out on the inaugurations of Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. “Ain’t No Sunshine” and “Lean on Me” are amongst Rolling Stone’s listing of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

“He’s the last African American Everyman,” musician and bandleader Questlove advised Rolling Stone in 2015. “Bill Withers is the closest thing black people have to a Bruce Springsteen.”

Withers, who overcame a childhood stutter, was born the final of six youngsters within the coal mining city of Slab Fork, West Virginia. After his dad and mom divorced when he was three, Withers was raised by his mom’s household in close by Beckley.

He joined the Navy at 17 and spent 9 years within the service as an plane mechanic putting in bogs. After his discharge, he moved to Los Angeles, labored at an plane components manufacturing unit, purchased a guitar at a pawn store and recorded demos of his tunes in hopes of touchdown a recording contract.

Simple songs 

In 1971, signed to Sussex Records, he put out his first album, “Just As I Am”, with the legendary Booker T Jones on the helm. It had the hits “Grandma’s Hands” and “Ain’t No Sunshine,” which was impressed by the Jack Lemmon movie “Days of Wine and Roses”. He was photographed on the quilt, smiling and holding his lunch pail.

“Ain’t No Sunshine” was initially launched because the B-side of his debut single, “Harlem”. But radio DJs flipped the disc and the tune climbed to quantity three on the Billboard charts and spent a complete of 16 weeks within the prime 40.

Withers went on to generate extra hits a 12 months later with the inspirational “Lean On Me”, the menacing “Who Is He (and What Is He to You)” and the slinky “Use Me” on his second album, “Still Bill”.

Later would come the putting “Lovely Day”, co-written with Skip Scarborough and that includes Withers holding the phrase “day” for almost 19 seconds, and “Just The Two Of Us”, co-written with Ralph MacDonald and William Salter. His “Live at Carnegie Hall” in 1973 made Rolling Stone’s 50 Greatest Live Albums of All Time.

“The hardest thing in songwriting is to be simple and yet profound. And Bill seemed to understand, intrinsically and instinctively, how to do that,” Sting stated in “Still Bill”, a 2010 documentary of Withers.

But Withers’s profession when Sussex Records went bankrupt and he was scooped up by Columbia Records. He not had full management over his music and chaffed when it was instructed he do an Elvis cowl. His new executives discovered Withers tough.

None of his Columbia albums reached the Top 40 aside from 1977’s “Menagerie”, which produced “Lovely Day”. (His hit duet with Grover Washington Jr “Just the Two of Us” was on Washington’s label). Withers’s final album was 1985’s “Watching You Watching Me”.

Social commentary 

Though his songs usually handled relationships, Withers additionally wrote ones with social commentary, together with “Better Off Dead” about an alcoholic’s suicide, and “I Can’t Write Left-Handed”, about an injured Vietnam War veteran.

He was awarded Grammys as a songwriter for “Ain’t No Sunshine” in 1971 and for “Just The Two Of Us” in 1981. In 1987, Bill obtained his ninth Grammy nomination and third Grammy as a songwriter for the re-recording of the 1972 hit “Lean On Me” by Club Nouveau.

He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015 by Stevie Wonder. Withers thanked his spouse in addition to the R&B pioneers who helped his profession like Ray Jackson, Al Bell and  Jones. He additionally received in just a few jabs on the file trade, saying A&R stood for “antagonistic and redundant”.

His music has been sampled and lined by such artists as Blackstreet’s “No Diggity”, Will Smith’s model of “Just The Two Of Us”, Black Eyed Peas’ “Bridging The Gap” and Twista’s “Sunshine”. The tune “Lean on Me” was the title theme of a 1989 film starring Morgan Freeman.

His songs are sometimes used on the massive display screen, together with “The Hangover”, “28 Days”, “American Beauty”, “Jerry Maguire”, “Crooklyn”, “Flight”, “Beauty Shop”, “The Secret Life of Pets” and “Flight”.

“I’m not a virtuoso, but I was able to write songs that people could identify with. I don’t think I’ve done bad for a guy from Slab Fork, West Virginia,” Withers advised Rolling Stone in 2015.

He is survived by his spouse, Marcia, and youngsters, Todd and Kori.