Remembering Bill Withers

Rudy

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It's with much sadness today that we report the passing of legendary soul composer, singer and musician Bill Withers. He passed on March 30th from heart complications. His hits included what have become modern popular music standards including "Use Me," "Ain't No Sunshine" and perhaps his most well-known song, "Lean On Me," with over 100 cover versions to date. Withers released his final album in the mid 80s, Watching You Watching Me, and abruptly quit the music business soon after, not having recorded or toured since that time. Bill's life story was released as a video memoir in his Still Bill video.

Post some of your favorite tracks below. Let's send him up to grandma's hands in style. 🙂
 

Rudy

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Despite all his many good tracks, this one has always stood out as my favorite. "Use Me." This is the edit of what started as a very long jam session in the studio. Rather than re-record it and lose the magic, it was shortened for release as-is. It's loose, floppy and jazzy, and its arrangement with its biting keyboard lines framing Withers' ruminations about being used.


"Grandma's Hands" is one of those tracks that defines Bill Withers perfectly. It is very simplistic in its approach, yet the lyrics cleverly explore all the ways that grandma's hands touched everyone's lives. All wrapped up in two minutes. It also reflects his down-home roots, having grown up in the post-Great Depression era in the coal mining town of Slab Fork, WV. (I have driven through the area, and even today it feels like a desolate place.)


"Lovely Day" has to be one of the best-written mid-tempo love songs I've heard, avoiding sappiness in favor of overall good feelings. This was a mainstay on our local jazz radio station, decades before I finally started getting into Wither's music. Just a genuine feel-good song we can use in these trying times.

 

LPJim

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Withers recorded on the Sussex label and the U.K. import versions were on A&M. After a long retirement he got inducted into the R&R Hall of Fame. Well deserved. R.I.P.

JB
 

mexicat

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Withers recorded on the Sussex label and the U.K. import versions were on A&M.
Yes I always thought of Bill Withers as an A&M artist, the early years at least. I have some of his UK A&M releases, this is one of the rarer ones:


May he rest in peace.
 

Rudy

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The Sussex label had a short but interesting history, its abrupt end coming in 1975 when the IRS padlocked the offices for unpaid taxes.

Sussex's most successful artist was Bill Withers, who had Pop #1 ("Lean On Me"), #2 ("Use Me") and #3 ("Ain't No Sunshine") singles on the label, all million-sellers. They also had a regional success with the Detroit-based group Gallery (under leader Jim Gold), with the #4 hit single "Nice To Be With You," recorded at GM Studios in what was East Detroit (now Eastpointe), MI, only a handful of miles away from yours truly. It, too, was a quasi-A&M release:

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Mr Bill

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I never made the Withers / A&M connection until I wound up in Japan back in my Navy days... There was a 10 volume series of A&M 10th Anniversary albums. Withers appeared on Volume 7: Singer/Songwriters. The album featured tracks by Phil Ochs, Cat Stevens, Joan Baez, Emitt Rhodes, Marc Benno and others.

I wish I could read Kanji, because the gatefold liner notes are an extensive multi-page book, chock full of photos.

--Mr Bill
 
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