Bill Withers who produced nine studio albums and won three Grammy Awards for Song of the Year—“Ain’t No Sunshine,” “Just The Two Of Us,” and “Lean On Me”—has died at age 81 from heart complications, his family told The Associated Press, who reported the news April 3.
"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, according to The AP. “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 seemed well aware of the effect that his music had on fans. “Unique things come from people who have a unique gift. You’re just a conduit,” Withers said in a video commemorating his induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame In 2015.
Withers had spent nine years in the Navy before becoming a musician in his 30s, when he produced his first album “Just As I Am” (1971), which included the B-Side single “Ain’t No Sunshine.” “It became a hit…and somewhat of a signature song for me,” Withers quipped in his Hall of Fame acceptance speech.
Watch his hilarious acceptance speech below, after being introduced by Stevie Wonder.
A lion of a songwriter, Withers’ lyrics have been remade by many and replayed in all sorts of films, from “Crooklyn” to “The Hangover.” But none of that seemed to phase him. As he told Rolling Stone in a 2015 interview, he was really just a shy guy who played guitar.
You gotta figure I was in my thirties when I started doing this, so I was socialized as another person before this. So it’s not like my whole life was wrapped up in this entertainer thing. I started building houses, bought some tools, a truck, so there’s no rule that says your life has to be one thing. You have to have a certain personality. 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.
Withers is survived by his wife, Marcia, and children, Todd and Kori. As the world mourns his passing, his fans and admirers took to social media to honor his legacy:
rn“We all need somebody to lean on.”
rnThank you, #BillWithers. pic.twitter.com/0bK6vQGy3Q
rn— The King Center (@TheKingCenter) April 3, 2020
Rest in power Bill Withers. Your voice, songs, and total expression gave us love, hope, and strength. My soul always has & always will be full of your music. Your humility displayed & depth of your power as you carried us all to a better place. You’re still & always will be Bill. pic.twitter.com/mkpcSBfuZv
rn— Lenny Kravitz (@LennyKravitz) April 3, 2020
One day I will play this song again because it IS a lovely day. For now, Rest In Peace dear man. Your music cheered my heart and soothed my soul.
rn— Billy Dee Williams (@realbdw) April 3, 2020
The world lost a legend. Soul singer Bill Withers’ song Grandma’s Hands is one of my favorites and reminds me of my grandmother and so many other mother-figures in my life.
rnLet’s all continue to live by his cherished lyrics during these times and lean on each other.
rn— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) April 3, 2020
RIP Bill Withers! The day our daughter Kaavia James came into this world-“Lovely Day” was our song of choice for her entry into the world. Thank you Bill Withers for creating a song that will forever be apart of our lives ❤️ ??
rn— DWade (@DwyaneWade) April 3, 2020
Aw man, Bill Withers was really the greatest. Grandma’s Hands, Ain’t No Sunshine, Lean on Me, Use Me Up, Just The Two Of Us and obviously Lovely Day are some of the best songs of all time. My heart really hurts for him, it reminds me of playing records with at my grandma’s house
rn— Chance The Rapper (@chancetherapper) April 3, 2020
#RIP #BILLWITHERS ??❤️? I’ll be playing some of my favorites today… #TeamDL #aintnosunshinewhenshesgone #useme #leanonme #lovelyday #ripbillwithers https://t.co/veweRYb81N
rn— DL Hughley (@RealDLHughley) April 3, 2020