Bill Withers, a three-time Grammy winner who wrote and sang the soul music hits “Lean On Me,” “Lovely Day” and “Ain’t No Sunshine,” has died, his family said. He was 81.
Withers passed away Monday from heart complications in Los Angeles, with his loved ones releasing a statement Friday.
“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 statement said. “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.”
As news of the music legend’s death spread, tributes poured in across social media.
The King Center tweeted a video of Withers performing, along with the caption: “Stunningly beautiful. Especially today. ‘We all need somebody to lean on.’ Thank you, Bill Withers.”
“We all need somebody to lean on.”
— The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center (@TheKingCenter) April 3, 2020
“Mourning the loss of my friend and inspiration, Bill Withers. He was such an incredible songwriter and storyteller. I’m so glad he shared his gift with the world. Life wouldn’t be the same without him,” John Legend wrote on Twitter.
Mourning the loss of my friend and inspiration, Bill Withers. He was such an incredible songwriter and storyteller. I'm so glad he shared his gift with the world. Life wouldn't be the same without him.
— John Legend (@johnlegend) April 3, 2020
“Rest in power Bill Withers. Your voice, songs, and total expression gave us love, hope, and strength,” musician Lenny Kravitz added on Twitter. “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.”
Withers was born in Slab Fork, West Virginia in 1938. After his parents divorced when he was 3 years old, he was raised by his mother’s family in nearby Beckley.
He joined the Navy at age 17 and spent nine years in the service as an aircraft mechanic. After leaving the military, he moved to Los Angeles, worked at an aircraft parts factory, and recorded demos before landing a recording contract.
In 1971, he signed with Sussex Records and released his first album, “Just As I Am.” It spawned the hits “Grandma’s Hands” and “Ain’t No Sunshine.”
His music has been sampled and covered by numerous artists, including on the BlackStreet single “No Diggity,” Will Smith’s version of “Just the Two of Us,” and Twista’s “Sunshine.” The track “Lean on Me” was the title song for the 1989 movie by the same name starring Morgan Freeman.
According to the Recording Academy website, Withers won Grammy Awards for “Ain’t No Sunshine” in 1971; “Just The Two Of Us” in 1981; and “Lean On Me” in 1987.
Withers was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015. He is survived by his wife, Marcia, and children, Todd and Kori.