R.I.P. Bill Withers

Bill Withers, who was known for his collection of soul hits including “Lean On Me” passed Monday at age 81 from heart complications. Withers ascended in the world of soul music in the ’70s when he recorded a succession of genre-defining songs which began with the success of “Ain’t No Sunshine.” Withers’ beginning in the music industry was not typical; Clarence Avant signed him to his Sussex Records after a career as a blue-collar worker. Withers would record eight studio albums and one live recording. His legacy was built from songs like “Grandma’s Hands,” “Use Me,” “Who Is He (And What Is He To You)”, “Lovely Day” and “Just The Two Of Us” which were all pillars of pop culture. Withers grew tired of the music industry in the ’80s and left it altogether. He earned three Grammy Awards and was nominated for six. The documentary about his life Still Bill was released in 2010. In 2015, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Later that year Anthony Hamilton, Michael McDonald, Ed Sheeran, Aloe Blacc and Dr. John did a tribute concert to Withers at Carnegie Hall in a nod to his live album that took place there in 1972.  Aretha Franklin, Mick Jagger, Michael Jackson, Sting, Al Jarreau and Paul McCartney have covered Withers’ music. Will Smith, The Black Eyed Peas, Twista and Blackstreet have sampled his songs. “Lean On Me” was the title of the 1989 movie starring Morgan Freeman and was played at the inaugurations for Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Withers was put into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2005. He is survived by his wife Marcia and children Todd and Kori. 

 

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