Bill Withers, the soulful hitmaker of the 70’s and 80’s, who is one of the most sampled musicians of his generation has died at the age of 81 years old, due to heart complications, statement by his family said.
Known for evergreen ballads such as “Aint no sunshine”, “Lean on Me”, “Lovely day” etc died on Monday in Los Angeles, the statement said.
The 3 time Grammy award winner, who withdrew from the public eye and became a recluse in the mid 80’s until his death, became a staple for samples by hip hop, soul and R & B musicians of today.
One of his signature songs, “Lean on Me” was played at both the inaugurations of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barrack Obama. The song is also included in the Rolling Stones’ 500 Greatest songs of all time.
“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. “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.” The statement read.
In 2015, Amir Questlove of Hip hop collective, The Roots said, “Bill Withers is the closest thing black people have to a Bruce Springsteen.”
He was the last born of a family of six. Born in Slab Fork, West Virginia and raised in nearby Beckley, by his mother’s family when she divorce from his dad.
Mr. Withers, who overcame a childhood stutter, joined the Navy at the age of 17 years old, where he was an Aircraft Mechanic, saddled with the responsibility of installing of toilets. After his discharged, he moved to Los Angelese and worked in an Aircraft parts factory. During this time, he bought a guitar at a pawn shop and recorded demos, in the hope of landing a recording contract.
In 1971, he landed a contract with Sussex Records wheree he recorded his first album, “Just as I am”. The album spawed the hits, “Grandma’s Hands” and “Aint no Sunshine”. He would continue in that tradition of churning out hits with his sophomore album titled “Still Bill”.
He is survived by his wife, Marcia. Children, Todd and Korri.
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