Legendary 70’s soul singer Bill Withers dies aged 81

Soul singer Bill Withers has died aged 81. His music career in the 1970’s produced a body of work that has stood the test of time, with his songs becoming evergreen hits that influenced a generation of artists.

Withers found fame in the early 1970’s and over a series of albums produced well known songs including Lovely Day, Lean on Me, ‘Aint No Sunshine, Grandma’s Hands, Use Me, Who Is He (And What Is He To You), I Can’t Write Left-handed and Just The Two Of Us. 

Born in 1938, Withers joined the navy when he was seventeen and served his country for nine years. A few years after he left the service, he moved from Virginia to Los Angeles to establish his music career.

His first album came out in 1970, but despite finding success with his song Ain’t No Sunshine he was reluctant to give up his day job where he worked in manufacturing, saying he knew the music business was a fickle industry.

Throughout the 1970’s he released a series of albums and scored a succession of hit songs. His final album was recorded in 1985 after which he left the music business, frustrated with the industry.

After leaving the music industry Withers lived with his wife and children and Los Angeles, where he would occasionally perform at special events.

“We are devastated by the loss of our beloved, devoted husband and father,” said Withers’ family in a statement. The singer died from heart complications.

After Withers stopped performing his songs continued to find success. Club Nouveau scored a number one hit in 1987 when the covered Lean On Me. The song has also been recorded by Bonnie Tyler, Tina Turner, Michael Bolton, Jack Vidgen, Glen Campbell and Al Jarreau.

Just the Two of Us, his duet with Grover Washington Jnr has been covered by Will Smith and sampled by Enimem for this hit Bonnie and Clyde.

Lovely Day returned to the top of the British charts in 1988 when it was remixed by Ben Leibrand, it also appears on the soundtrack to The Bodyguard performed by S.O.U.L. S.Y.S.T.E.M. featuring Michelle Visage.

Ben Harper, Issac Hayes, Liza Minnelli, Grace Jones, Ike & Tina Turner, Mick Jagger, D’Angelo, Junior Wells and Fred Wesley and the JB’s are just a few of the artists who have covered Use Me. Australian band The Rockmelon’s featuring Deni Hines scored a hit with their version of ‘Aint No Sunshine, Michael Jackson also recorded the song.

Grandma’s Hands was sampled by Blackstreet for their hit No Diggity, while Fatboy Slim and Macy Gray sample I Can’t Write Left-handed for their tune Demons.

Here’s Bill Withers singing Lean on Me on a TV show in the 1970’s, he’s introduced by country singer Kenny Rogers, who passed away just last month. 

OIP Staff

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