Soul singer Bill Withers who wrote hit tunes Lean on Me, Ain’t No Sunshine, and Lovely Day, has died according to a statement from his family.
The 81-year-old reportedly died from heart complications on Monday in Los Angeles.
“We are devastated by the loss of our beloved, devoted husband and father. 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,” the family statement read.
The statement continued: “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.”
Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time features both Ain’t No Sunshine and Lean On Me.
Barack Obama and Bill Clinton both played Lean On Me at their inaugurations.
Bill Withers stopped music-making in the mid-1980s
Withers had a relatively brief career, having turned away from music-making in the mid-1980s; however, his impact was enormous.
His songs with their powerful melodies and perfect grooves became the soundtrack to so many engagements, weddings, and backyard parties.
His songs feature in lots of movies, including The Hangover, American Beauty, Flight, and Jerry Maguire, among others.
He won two Grammys as a songwriter for “Ain’t No Sunshine” in 1971 and for “Just The Two Of Us” in 1981.
In 1987, Bill received his ninth Grammy nomination and third Grammy as a songwriter for the re-recording of his 1972 hit Lean On Me by Club Nouveau.
In 2015, musician and bandleader Questlove told Rolling Stone, “He’s the last African-American Everyman, “Bill Withers is the closest thing black people have to a Bruce Springsteen.”
Tributes roll in for Bill Withers
Lin-Manuel Miranda, the composer of Hamilton, was one of the first to post a tribute to Twitter.
“Rest In Peace, maestro Bill Withers. What a legacy.” he wrote.
Rest In Peace, maestro Bill Withers.
What a legacy.https://t.co/GBImqLRdPh
— Lin-Manuel Miranda (@Lin_Manuel) April 3, 2020
Another Twitter user called him “one of the greatest songwriters and musicians to ever do it.”
One of the greatest songwriters and musicians to ever do it.
RIP Bill Witherspic.twitter.com/6bgA4mTpNJ
— Erik Swann (@SwannErik) April 3, 2020
Karine Jean-Pierre wrote, “Thank you for always putting a smile on our faces with your music. Rest In Power.”
Such sad news. I remember meeting Bill Withers and his lovely wife Marcia a few years ago in the control room for @amjoyshow in Los Angeles. He and his wife were incredibly kind and warm.
Thank you for always putting a smile on our faces with your music. Rest In Power. pic.twitter.com/INW7iJPHMk
— Karine Jean-Pierre (@K_JeanPierre) April 3, 2020
Born William Harrison Withers Jr in 1938, he grew up in a tough mining town in West Virginia. The hymns and gospel music of his childhood would later heavily influence his music.
He joined the navy at just 17-years-old, and he spent nine years in the service. He first signed with Sussex Records before moving on to Columbia Records.
He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015.
It’s been reported that health care workers have been posting their own renditions of Lean On Me to help get them through these current difficult times.
Withers is survived by his wife, Marcia, and children, Todd and Kori. Rest in peace.
The world of jazz also lost an icon last week when Manu Dibango died in France after contracting coronavirus. The saxophone legend was 86-years-old when he passed away on Tuesday, March 24.
And the acting world also lost a legend recently in Kirk Douglas, who passed away last February at 103-years-old.