'Lean On Me' Singer Bill Withers Dead At 81
Bill Withers, best known for hits like “Lean On Me” and “Ain’t No Sunshine,” has died at 81, his family said Friday.
“We are devastated by the loss of our beloved, devoted husband and father," the ‘70s soul singer-songwriter’s family said in a statement. “A solitary man with a heart driven to connect to the world at large, with his poetry and music, he spoke honestly to people and connected them to each other.
“As private a life as he lived close to intimate family and friends, his music forever belongs to the world. In this difficult time, we pray his music offers comfort and entertainment as fans hold tight to loved ones.”
Withers died on March 30 in Los Angeles from heart complications.
Born William Harrison Withers Jr. in West Virginia, he was 18 when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy, where he served for nine years. He moved to Los Angeles to focus on making music.
"I can’t play the guitar or the piano, but I made a career out of writing songs on guitars and piano,” he told the New York Times in 2015. "I never learned music. I just did it."
Withers' list of songs, recorded between 1970 and 1985, includes “Just the Two of Us,” “Lovely Day” and “Grandma’s Hands” – the latter of which was sampled in Blackstreet’s 1996’s track “No Diggity.”
He released eight studio albums and won Grammys for “Ain’t No Sunshine” and “Just the Two of Us.” The Club Nouveau cover of “Lean on Me” got Withers another Grammy in 1987. The original "Lean on Me" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2007 and Withers was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015.
Withers leaves behind second wife Marcia Johnson and their adult children Todd and Kori.
Social media is filling up with tributes to Withers. Award-winning songwriter Diane Warren remembered him as "one of the best songwriters and lovely humans ever." Nile Rodgers, acclaimed producer, songwriter and musician, tweeted: "Class, class and more class."
"One of my biggest heroes," shared Canadian singer Ron Sexsmith. "Everyone of his songs had such wisdom and kindness and he sang them all with truth and beauty. I always imagined that God's voice it would sound a lot like Bill's."
Actor Billy Dee Williams tweeted: "Your music cheered my heart and soothed my soul."
Football pro Russell Wilson, who is married to Ciara, said Withers "will be missed, but not forgotten." He tweeted: "I remember always singing 'Ain’t no sunshine' 'Use Me' and 'Lean On Me' growing up with my family. We will sing it forever in my house."
In 2005, Withers told Billboard: "I feel very flattered that my songs have become part of the American landscape. Probably, I should have been better. But all things considered, I did the best I could."
Listen to music from Bill Withers