Bill Withers, whose smooth and soulful voice brought decades of positive messages of upliftment with his award-winning music, has died, according to a report from the Associated Press. He was 81. The cause of death was attributed to “heart complications,” the AP wrote.
Some of Wither’s most recognizable hits include the songs “Lean On Me” and “Lovely Day.”
Wither’s family released a brief statement confirming his death:
“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.”
The West Virginia native rose to fame after self-financing his musical endeavors when he arrived in Los Angeles in 1967 at the age of 29. “This resulted in the album Just As I Am with the Grammy-winning ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ and the much-loved ‘Grandma’s Hands,'” according to Withers’ official website. “The pragmatic Withers — who was now able to leave his straight gig at an aircraft company — subsequently assembled the remaining members of the Watts 103rd Street Band for U.S. and international tours.”
Withers’ music would go on to influence later musical generations including hip-hop as producers reliably looked used portions of his songs — or samples — to provide the musical basis for their productions.
One of his signature songs, “Ain’t No Sunshine,” peaked at number 3 on charts in 1971 and lives on as an indelible anthem tat Withers said was inspired by two characters in the 1962 movie “Days of Wine and Roses.” The characters “were both alcoholics who were alternately weak and strong. It’s like going back for seconds on rat poison. Sometimes you miss things that weren’t particularly good for you. It’s just something that crossed my mind from watching that movie, and probably something else that happened in my life that I’m not aware of,” Withers said about the song, which was also his first hit single.
Another of his classics, 1979’s “Just The Two Of Us,” performed with Grover Washington, Jr., became an anthem for lovers everywhere and went on to win a Grammy Award for Best R&B Song.
While he led a private life, he left the public with plenty of amazing music and a number of poignant quotes, including the following examples:
“I write and sing about whatever I am able to understand and feel. I feel that it is healthier to look out at the world through a window than through a mirror. Otherwise, all you see is yourself and whatever is behind you.”
“When you have a talent you know it when you’re five years old– it’s just getting around to it.”
Some of the rappers who achieved chart-topping hits by sampling Withers’ music include Jay-Z, Kanye West, 2Pac and DMX.
Withers death came days after it was announced that anther musical legend — Ellis Marsalis Jr. — had also died.
May Withers rest in eternal peace as his music lasts for the same amount of time.