From Slab Fork WV came a sound that made a mark around the world. The story of Bill Withers does not conform to the commodotized teen idol who is more concerned about image over substance that has unfortunately become music biz de rigueur. No, to the contrary Bill Withers became a success in the music business at the tender age of 32. This (relatively) advanced aged and worldview provided a perspective not only for his musical output but his business acumen. Bill Withers was a Troubadour in the truest sense of the word, he did not write 3:30 booty shaking escapist themes, but his songs/stories made your soul dance, smile and ultimately think.

I could write about all the hits, all the factoids that you may or may not know but to me that’s not what’s important about Bill Withers. What is important is his message and music are among the hieroglyphics of Black Music. Quite simply he built pyramids with his songs. What do I mean by that? Bill Withers showed the humanity that is at the core of the Black Experience in this country. It would only take a surface look at some of his song titles to know that. “Ain’t No Sunshine”, “Kissing My Love”, “Grandma’s Hands”, “Lean On Me”, “Lovely Day” and on and on. His experience, our experience, his humanity, our humanity. Bill Withers lived his music and his music lives in him and in us. When he got tired of Columbia’s A&R execs or “Blaxperts” as he referred to them in 1985 he left. Let me say that again so that might resonate… He. Left. The. Company. Thus ending his recording career for all intents and purposes. Notice I said recording career, I didn’t say legacy, importance, or even his livelihood as a songwriter.

I have placed these two videos here so that we can better hear from the source. This is an opportunity to hear the music and the man. Bill Withers has always reminded me of that cool uncle that’s your mom’s younger brother, that’s seen the world, doesn’t take any stuff off of anyone and puts you up on what life’s about even when you’re a youngster. That’s that uncle you surely, surely miss when they’re no longer around to take you out for a ride where they eventually drop by there homeboy’s house and you sit there quietly as they laugh at jokes you don’t quite understand [but you will]. The music of Bill Withers has been taking us out on a ride for almost fifty years, while we’ll still have the music, the ride just won’t seem the same without the driver.

Rest well, Mr. Withers.