Music Legend Bill Withers Dies Aged 81

Share on Facebook

The influential soul singer, Bill Withers, has passed away today, in Los Angeles, aged eighty-one.

Keep scrolling for the full story, and to read more about his incredible life.

Born as William Harrison Withers Jr in West Virginia, 1938, Withers would go on to become a world-reknown soul and blues musician.

The youngest of six children, Withers was born with a stutter and had a hard time fitting in with others.  

“We lived right on the border of the black and white neighborhood,” he said in a 2015 interview with Rolling Stone. “I heard guys playing country music, and in church I heard gospel. There was music everywhere.”

But he quickly realized the naval life wasn’t for him, and his stutter was a real issue aboard the ships. “I couldn’t get out a word,” he says. “I realized it wasn’t physical. I figured out that my stutter – and this isn’t the case for everyone – was caused by fear of the perception of the listener.” A year later, he quit.

So, in 1967, he made the big move to Los Angeles to pursue his dream.  

To make ends meet, Withers got a job at the Boeing aircraft company making toilet seats, forcing him to record his demos in the middle of the night.

His 1971 debut album, Just As I Am, was finally produced and released to the world. Bill fondly remembered the story behind the iconic album cover, which was taken on his lunch break at the factory. He recalled, “my co-workers were making fun of me. They thought it was a joke.”

The following year in 1972, his second album, Still Bill was released, with the song it was centered around “Lean On Me”, rocketing to Number 1 in the charts.

With his most famous tracks including “Ain’t No Sunshine”, “Just The Two Of Us”, and “Lovely Day”.

After just over a decade of making and performing music, Bill called it quits. Though the exact reason is unclear, he gave an insight into a moment that tipped him over the edge.  

It happened during the sessions for his last ever album, 1985’s Watching You Watching Me.

“They made me record that album at some guy’s home studio,” he said. “This stark-naked 5-year-old girl was running around the house, and they said to her, ‘We’re busy. Go play with Bill.’ Now, I’m this big black guy and they’re sending a little naked white girl over to play with me! I said, ‘I gotta get out of here. I can’t take this s***!’ ”

And, aside from a guest appearance in a 2004 Jimmy Buffett song, he didn’t perform live ever again.

He humbly said on the matter, “What else do I need to buy? I’m just so fortunate. I’ve got a nice wife, man, who treats me like gold. I don’t deserve her. My wife dotes on me. I’m very pleased with my life how it is. This business came to me in my thirties. I was socialized as a regular guy. I never felt like I owned it or it owned me.”

With his wife, Marcia, he had 2 children, Todd and Kori, who claim they had an amazing childhood thanks to their dad. “We’d have James Brown dance parties in our pajamas,” says Kori, “and take cross-country road trips, blasting Chuck Berry songs the whole time.”

So it comes with great sadness today to reveal that the music icon sadly passed away. He was eighty-one-years-old.

A statement from his family read: “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.”

And many have been sharing how Wither’s music brought them so much hope and joy in their lives.

And they have vowed to play his music all day today in tribute to a legend lost.

And he was seen as a hero to many.

A true legend who will be sorely missed.