The great Bill Withers passed away today in Los Angeles…With the Corona virus withering away of the American soul it was first thought that his passing was due to contamination. He died of heart failure at age 81. He lived most of his life in Los Angeles and his love of music was a second thought after he was discharged from the service. He got a job for $3 an hour at an airplane maintenance factory next to LAX.
His life changed when he was at a blues club in South Central L.A. and Lou Rawls strolled in with an entourage of titillating women. The following day he went to pawn shop and purchased a guitar. He taught himself how to play and cut a demo. Frustrated with the music business and personal finance issues, Mr. Withers stopped recording and performing. After he released the 1985 album “Watching You Watching Me,” Withers was like a Greek oracle; he let the songs speak for themselves. He sang so conversationally and universally, like he was sitting next to you. His songs made every word count. His music reached into funk, pop, folk, jazz and the fringes of gospel; the songs are kindly, hardheaded, romantic, socially conscious and perfectly plain-spoken. The passions and dignity of everyday life was meant in songs like “Ain’t No Sunshine,” “Use Me” and “Lean on Me”. Mr. Withers’ compassion and empathy shined through in all his music.