Bill Withers, soulful singer of Ain't No Sunshine, dead at 81

  • Bill Withers, soulful singer of Ain't No Sunshine, dead at 81

Bill Withers, soulful singer of Ain't No Sunshine, dead at 81

On Saturday, the music world mourned the loss of acclaimed soul singer Bill Withers, aged 81.

The soulful song is a tribute to Withers's maternal grandmother, Lula.

Music fans of a certain vintage will remember his hit period in the 1970s, while Michael Jackson aficionados should know him as the composer of Ain't No Sunshine, a hit in Jacko's early days as a teenage sensation. The song Lean on Me by Bill Withers was the only number from all his songs that topped the charts at numero uno spot on US Billboard in the year 1972.

Songs like "Ain't No Sunshine", "Lean on me" and the funkalicious "Use Me" made him feel like that cool growing uncle - the one who was a reassuring presence at barbecues and family reunions. His classic hits, "Lean on Me" and "Ain't No Sunshine", are two of the singles named on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list.

Withers was born in Slab Fork, West Virginia, in 1938 and struggled with a stutter in the course of his childhood.

Withers was in service three times and received a Grammy Award, the musical equivalent of the oscars.

Later would come the striking " Lovely Day", co-written with Skip Scarborough and featuring Withers holding the word "day" for nearly 19 seconds, and "Just the Two Of Us", co-written with Ralph MacDonald and William Salter. "And Bill seemed to understand, intrinsically and instinctively, how to do that", Sting said in "Still Bill", a 2010 documentary of Withers.

Withers released his final album, Watching You Watching Me, in 1985, before going into early retirement. There is a sympathy in his voice, an underlying sense of understanding as heard in "Lean On Me" that ironically lends itself in appropriateness, given the reality of the current crisis we are facing together.

Withers was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2015, among his several honors, and made a rare public appearance to accept the tribute. Withers co-wrote the 1980 hit "Just The Two of Us", which he recorded with saxophonist Grover Washington, Jr.