Bill Withers, ‘Lean on Me’ singer-songwriter, dies aged 81

US singer-songwriter Bill Withers, whose hits included “Lean On Me”, has died aged 81, his household mentioned.

The influential soul artist additionally wrote “Ain’t No Sunshine”, “Lovely Day” and “Just The Two of Us”, amongst different much-loved songs. 

The three-time Grammy Award winner, who withdrew from making music within the mid-1980s, died of coronary heart issues on Monday in Los Angeles, his household mentioned.

His demise comes as the general public has drawn inspiration from his music through the coronavirus pandemic, with well being care staff, choirs, artists and extra posting their very own renditions on “Lean on Me” to assist get by the troublesome instances.

Paying tribute to the singer’s legacy, his household mentioned in an announcement: “We are devastated by the lack of our beloved, devoted husband and father. A solitary man with a coronary heart pushed to hook up with the world at giant, along with his poetry and music, he spoke truthfully to individuals and linked them to one another.

Withers on the Hammersmith Odeon in 1972

Credit: Fin Costello /Redferns

“As non-public a life as he lived near intimate household and buddies, his music perpetually belongs to the world. In this troublesome time, we pray his music gives consolation and leisure as followers maintain tight to family members.”

Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka wrote on Twitter: “There is no more appropriate time to reflect on his words than now as we lean on each other.”

Withers’ songs throughout his temporary profession have change into the soundtracks of numerous weddings, events and public occasions. “Lean on Me,” a paean to friendship, was carried out on the inaugurations of each 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 band chief Questlove advised Rolling Stone in 2015. “Bill Withers is the closest thing black people have to a Bruce Springsteen.”

Bill Withers in Los Angeles, 1971

Credit: Michael Ochs Archives 

His demise prompted a torrent of appreciation on social media, together with from former Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett, who mentioned Withers’ music has been a cherished a part of her life. “It added to my joy in the good times, and also gave me comfort and inspiration when I needed it most,” she tweeted. 

Withers, who overcame a childhood stutter, was born the final of six kids within the coal mining city of Slab Fork, West Virginia. After his dad and mom divorced when he was 3, Withers was raised by his grandmother.

Discussing overcoming his stutter with The Telegraph in 2010, Withers mentioned: “Well, I thought about it. And it’s not a physical handicap because you don’t stutter in certain circumstances. I came to the conclusion that it was a fear of the perception of the listener. Having too high an opinion of other people and too low an opinion of yourself.”

“Once you come to that conclusion, you try to get your opinion of others in a more realistic place… And still it leaks in from time to time. The idea is to minimise it.”

He joined the Navy at 17 and spent 9 years within the service as an plane mechanic putting in bathrooms. After his discharge, he moved to Los Angeles, labored at an plane elements manufacturing facility, purchased a guitar at a pawn store and recorded demos of his songs by night time in hopes of touchdown a recording contract.

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.

Withers went on to generate extra hits a yr 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 placing “ Lovely Day,” co-written with Skip Scarborough and that includes Withers holding the phrase “day” for nearly 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 mentioned in “Still Bill,” a 2010 documentary of Withers.

Withers’ spouse Marcia mentioned the singer continued to jot down and document songs after retiring from public life

Credit: Gilles Petard 

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

None of his Columbia albums reached the Top 40 apart 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’ final album was 1985′s “Watching You Watching Me.”

Though his songs typically 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.

Withers being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by Stevie Wonder

Credit: Aaron Josefczyk /Reuters

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 Booker T Jones. He additionally acquired in a couple of jabs on the document trade, saying A&R stood for “antagonistic and redundant.”

His music has been sampled and lined by such artists as BlackRoad’s “No Diggity,” Will Smith’s model of “ Just the Two Of Us, ” Black Eyed Peas’ “Bridging The Gap” and Twista’s “Sunshine.” The music “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 Johnson and their two kids, Todd and Kori.

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