Bill Withers, 'Lean on Me' and 'Ain't No Sunshine' Singer, Dies of Heart Complications at 81
Bill Withers, whose timeless hits include “Lean on Me” and “Ain’t No Sunshine,” has died. He was 81.
The three-time Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter died on Monday in Los Angeles from heart complications, his family told the Associated Press in a statement.
“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,” read the statement. “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’ death was mourned by many on social media, who spoke of the lasting impact his work had on their lives,.
“Rest in power Bill Withers,” wrote Lenny Kravitz. “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.”
“Just got word that Bill Withers has passed away,” wrote Charlie Daniels. “He sure graced us with some great songs. Lean On Me will always be a classic. Rest In Peace Sir.”
Added singer José James: “We need his message of unity now more than ever.”
Withers, the youngest of six children, was born with a stutter — which he didn’t overcome until after high school, when he enlisted in the Navy. After quitting in 1965, he stayed in California, which is where he first taught himself to play guitar and began writing his own music, according to Rolling Stone.
He received his first Grammy in 1971 for “Ain’t No Sunshine,” and got a second in 1981 for “Just the Two of Us.” His third came in 1987, for a re-recording of “Lean on Me.”
Withers, who stepped back from the music industry during the 1980s, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015.
Although his career was relatively short, Withers resisted many of the offers to perform again that came to him later in life.
“What else do I need to buy?” he told Rolling Stone in 2015. “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.”
“What few songs I wrote during my brief career, there ain’t a genre that somebody didn’t record them in,” he added. “I’m not a virtuoso, but I was able to write songs that people could identify with. I don’t think I’ve done bad for a guy from Slab Fork, West Virginia.”
He is survived by wife, Marcia, and kids Todd and Kori, according to the Associated Press.