MUSIC

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Music Features

RIP Bill Withers: The King of Soul's Best Songs

Listen to hits like "Ain't No Sunshine" and "Lovely Day."

Ed Caraeff/Getty Images

Bill Withers, the singer-songwriter known for classics like "Lean on Me," "Ain't No Sunshine," and" Lovely Day" has died of heart complications.

Withers was 81 at the time of his passing and is survived by his wife, Marcia Johnson, and their two children, Todd and Kori. The family statement reads:

"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. 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."

Withers was primed to sing of heartbreak from an early age, growing up in poverty in West Virginia and enduring the loss of his father at just 13 years old. He got out of West Virginia as soon as he was old enough to join the Navy, where he served for nine years before moving to the San Francisco area. It was there that Withers, in his early 20s, began to learn to play the guitar and sing music. After moving to Los Angeles in 1967, Withers found a job making toilet seats that kept him afloat so he could spend his nights pursuing his real passion: music. Eventually, famed black music executive Clarence Avant took Withers under his wing and signed him to a record deal.

Withers went on to release seven albums in eight years, albums that included hit songs like "Lean On Me" and "Ain't No Sunshine" which quickly became integral parts of American culture. He retired from music in 2009, in part because of ongoing disputes with Columbia records.

When he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2015, Withers said, "I really don't have the personality to do this all the time, I'm not that outgoing. I'm rather shy—I'd rather hide. I never danced. I hid behind the guitar. So it's all life, you know, as long as you're doing something."

Despite this, there is no question that Withers poured his heart and soul into his music. Every song by the late singer is imbued with a depth of feeling and a storytelling ability that helped to define the genre.

Listen to all of his best songs on our Spotify playlist:



Bill Withers - Ain't No Sunshine youtu.be