“I feel that it is healthier to look out at the world through a window than through a mirror. Otherwise, all you see is yourself and whatever is behind you.” — Bill Withers (July 4, 1938-March 30, 2020)
Today it was announced that rhythm and blues/folk singer Bill Withers has succumbed to an ongoing heart condition at his home in Los Angeles. He was 81 years old at the time of his death.
As condolences and tributes pour in from across the cultural sphere, generations of music listeners are reminiscing upon or just now discovering the soulful, soothing and stirring musical styles of a man that has had more of a musical influence upon his contemporaries than just about any singer/songwriter before him or since.
Younger audiences were likely first introduced to the musical elder statesman on the critically-acclaimed documentary “Black Godfather: The Clarence Avant Story” on Netflix just last year.
The list of American musical icons who reversed engineered Bill Withers’ soul to suit their needs is as formidable as it is diverse; Anthony Hamilton, Bruce Springsteen, Darius Rucker, Andre 3000, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Eagles, D’Angelo, Jon Bon Jovi, the list of those Withers influenced is almost as long as his considerable music catalog.
Now that Withers is has passed to the next realm, there are an untold number of editorial and artistic offerings that will look to quantify his life through words and musical notes. And, in that manner, this piece is no different. Ultimately, all will fall short when attempting to measure the life of this uniquely gifted individual.
The best way to know Bill Withers is through his own music as well as that of those who tried to emulate him; ‘Ain’t No Sunshine”, ”Grandma’s Hands”, ”Use Me”, “Lean On Me” and “Just The Two of Us”, perhaps his most acclaimed song of all-time. And that’s saying a lot when considering his other hits.
“Just the Two of Us” and “Lean on Me” are likely two of the most covered songs of the last 50 years.
The 3-time Grammy winner was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015 and was inducted into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame in 2007.
The twice-married Bill Withers is survived by wife Marcia Johnson as well as two children, Todd and Kori.