Saturday, April 4, 2020

Bill Withers Passes Away

Bill Withers passed away. You can read what I thought of his music here.

People who can create music like he did are rare.

Bill Withers, a onetime Navy aircraft mechanic who, after teaching himself to play the guitar, wrote some of the most memorable and often-covered songs of the 1970s, including “Lean on Me,” “Ain’t No Sunshine” and “Use Me,” died on Monday in Los Angeles. He was 81. His death, at a hospital, was announced by his family. His son, Todd, said Mr. Withers had had heart problems. 

Mr. Withers, who had an evocative, gritty R&B voice that could embody loss or hope, was in his 30s when he released his first album, “Just as I Am,” in 1971.

It included “Ain’t No Sunshine,” a mournful lament (“Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone/And she’s always gone too long/Anytime she goes away”) that cracked the Billboard Top 10. Other hits followed, perhaps none better known than “Lean on Me,” an anthem of friendship and support that hit No. 1 in 1972 and has been repurposed countless times by a variety of artists.
William Harrison Withers Jr. was born on July 4, 1938, in Slab Fork, W.Va., to William and Mattie (Galloway) Withers. His mother was a maid, and his father worked in the coal mines. In 2015, in advance of a tribute concert in his honor at Carnegie Hall, Mr. Withers was interviewed at a restaurant by a reporter for The Times. The talk turned to how, with no music training, he had managed to fashion a career in music relatively late in life.

“It was just something I decided to do,” he said. “If I decided to build one of these fountains” — he pointed to a decoration on the restaurant’s patio — “I could probably do it.” He could also probably have resumed his career at any time. “Late in life, he would tease us about recording again,” Mr. Sacks said. “But I think he was truly ambivalent. He said he didn’t think anyone was interested in what an ‘old man’ had to say. And that was Bill to a tee: wily, cunning, self-effacing. Utterly disingenuous.”


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