Bill Withers, the iconic soul singer behind songs like ‘Lovely Day’ and ‘Lean On Me’, has died.
The musician suffered heart complications and died on Monday (March 30), his family confirmed. He was 81 years old.
“We are devastated by the loss of our beloved, devoted husband and father,” Withers’ family said in a statement. “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 behind a number of enduring songs during his career, including ‘Lovely Day’ and ‘Lean On Me’. He won three Grammys and was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame by Stevie Wonder in 2015.
The musician, who was born in West Virginia in 1938, began his career after moving to Los Angeles following his discharge from the Navy. There, he landed a record deal with Sussex Records and released his debut album ‘Just As I Am’, which featured ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’, in 1971. ‘Lean On Me’ was released as part of his second album ‘Still Bill’ a year later, preceding more classics like ‘Lovely Day’ and ‘Just The Two Of Us’.
He later signed with Columbia after Sussex Records went bankrupt but failed to find the same success with his new label. Only one of his albums with Columbia charted in the Top 40 – 1977’s ‘Menagerie’. After his last album ‘Watching You Watching Me’ failed to chart in 1985, he went into early retirement.
Withers has remained influential and his music has been sampled and covered by the likes of Black Eyed Peas, Will Smith and BlackStreet, the latter of whom sampled the intro of his song ‘Grandma’s Hands’ on their 1996 hit ‘No Diggity’.
In recent months, fans had found new inspiration and comfort in his music during the coronavirus pandemic, with ‘Lean On Me’ being sung by medical professionals and from apartment windows by people social distancing.
Withers is survived by his wife Marcia and two children, Todd and Kori.