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Bill Withers (1938–2020), legendary soul singer & songwriter

by Kirk Fox

Bill Withers was a legendary soul singer-songwriter and musician known for the hit songs “Lean on Me,” “Ain’t No Sunshine,” and “Use Me.”

One of the great voices of the 1970s

Growing up, Withers had a stutter and joined the Navy at the age of 18. He grew out of the stutter well enough to leave the Navy and start a singing career. His 1971 debut album Just As I Am featured one of his signature songs, “Ain’t No Sunshine,” a song he also wrote. “Lean on Me” was a hit for Withers in 1972, his only single to reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100.

His later hit songs included “Use Me” and “Just the Two of Us” with saxophonist Grover Washington Jr. Dissatisfied with the record industry, he left the music business in 1985 and did not record again and rarely performed live until his induction into the Rock Hall of Fame in 2015.

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On leaving the music business at his peak

“What else do I need to buy?… 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.” —2015 Rolling Stone interview

What they said about him

Full Obituary: Chicago Tribune

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