Obituary: Bill Withers

“It matters not where I come from in relation to the world, as long as the world and I arrive at a common point at a common time”.

So say the sleeve notes on Bill Withers’ debut album ‘Just As I Am’ (released on the dubious Sussex Records, the same that made a mint from Rodriguez without his knowledge, then somehow managed to lose all the money).

On the sleeve Bill’s taking a break from work, lunch-pail in hand, and the album’s telling title spells it out. What you saw was what you got with Bill Withers.

A humble man from a poor background, he was born during the Depression in a West Virginia coal-mining community. Nine years in the Navy, and a string of factory jobs honed him into an everyman who never lost the common touch. Yet he could casually pen timeless classics like ‘Lovely Day’, ‘Ain’t No Sunshine…’ and ‘Lean On Me’, and it didn’t hurt that his voice was pure soulful gold.

Always defiantly his own man, and very matter-of-fact about his own considerable talents, he had little time for agents, record companies and the whole glitzy music machine, and retired from music in 1985.

At his happiest just being a regular guy, Bill Withers died of heart complications in Los Angeles at the age of 81.

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