“I write and sing about whatever I am able to understand and feel. I feel that it is healthier to look at the world through a window than through a mirror. Otherwise, all you see is yourself and whatever is behind you.” – Bill Withers
Bill Withers may have been out of the spotlight for more than 25 years, but his songwriting and music have the power of longevity. Songs that are heartwarming, down to earth, and even some with a hint of sadness, each one has a common thread; they each tell a story that resonates with music lovers across genre lines.
Most artists enter the industry at a young age. Some peak well before they have hit their 30’s and often fade into music obscurity. Bill Withers is the exception. A Navy Veteran that had his first hit at 33 years old and a career that lasted well into his 40’s proves that you can never be too old to pursue your passion. Bill Withers was able to take his life experience and bridge the gap between R&B and acoustic folksy soul to deliver hits that strike a chord deep within. In 1970 the world was introduced to Withers with his first album Just as I Am. Bill’s style at the time was a breath of fresh air, as the disco phase was slowly seeping into the culture, with dance and rock music. It was an album that boasted the instant acoustic classic “Ain’t No Sunshine.” He won a Grammy for Best R&B song for the single.
His follow up album, Still Bill became a game changer with hits like “Use Me” and “Lean on Me.”
Withers went on to release a slew of albums including, +Justments, Making Music, Naked and Warm, Menagerie, and Bout Love. He had hits like “Grandma’s Hands,” and even “Lovely Day” that still brings chills just listening to Withers hold onto that note.
In 1985 He recorded his last album for Columbia Records, Watching You, Watching Me. He later went on to do the duet, “Just the Two of Us” with Grover Washington Jr. that eventually won them the Grammy for Best R&B Song.
Withers is an inspiration in overcoming challenges. He stuttered well into his 20’s but became a master as an acoustic singer-songwriter in R&B, disco, and even some jazz while holding onto the one thing that artists fight for, staying true to himself and his art. Withers was able to remain detached from the fame frenzy and eventually walked away from the industry after rumbling with his record label and their efforts to change him. While Withers may have taken a step away from industry, his music has continued to shine. Artists such as Club Nouveau revived “Lean on Me” with a cover that shot straight up the pop charts bringing Withers back to the forefront. Other artists ranging from the Temptations to Garth Brooks, Mary J. Blige, Michael Jackson, Isaac Hayes, Big Daddy Kane, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Lenny Kravitz, Alicia Keys, Kid Rock, Sheryl Crow, and more, have covered Withers songs over the years.
The accolades are starting to gain momentum for the Grammy Award winner, including being inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2005. Bill Withers was also honored by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers in 2006 with the Society’s Rhythm & Soul Heritage Award. He also has a Soul Train Hall of Fame award, two NAACP Image Awards. In 2007, “Lean on Me” was enshrined in the Grammy Hall of Fame.
In 2015, Bill Withers was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame; which was a “Lovely Day,” putting the icing on the cake of the legacy that Withers has contributed to the music industry.