‘Lean on Me’ Singer Bill Withers Dead at 81

Lean on Me Singer Bill Withers Dies at 81
Bill Withers. Reed Saxon/AP/Shutterstock

Bill Withers, known for his iconic songs “Lean on Me” and “Lovely Day,” has died from heart complications at the age of 81.

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The Associated Press reports that the legendary singer passed away on Monday, March 30, in Los Angeles.

“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,” Withers’ family said in a statement. “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 born in Slab Fork, West Virginia, in 1938. He joined the Navy at age 17 where he spent nine years as an aircraft mechanic while writing and recording songs in between his work. After Withers was discharged, he moved to Los Angeles where he worked as an assembler while performing at clubs at night.

The crooner released his first album Just As I Am in 1971, which was produced by Booker T. Jones. The album included the hits “Ain’t No Sunshine” and “Grandma’s Hands,” which was sampled on Blackstreet’s 1996 track “No Diggity.”

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Withers penned several hits over the span of his 15-year career including “Lean on Me,” “Lovely Day” and “Just the Two of Us.” He recorded seven studio albums, which earned him three Grammy Awards and four Grammy nominations. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by Stevie Wonder in 2015.

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“I really don’t have the personality to do this all the time,” Withers told Rolling Stone after the ceremony. “I’m not that outgoing. I’m rather shy — I’d rather hide. I never danced. I hid behind the guitar. So it’s all life, you know, as long as you’re doing something.”

Although Withers decided to quit making music in 1985, he told Rolling Stone that he was proud of his accomplishments.

“I’m not a virtuoso, but I was able to write songs that people could identify with,” Withers said. “I don’t think I’ve done bad for a guy from Slab Fork.”

Withers is survived by his wife, Marcia Johnson, and their two children, Todd and Kori.

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