Artist News Obituaries

Bill Withers dies

By | Published on Monday 6 April 2020

Bill Withers

Singer-songwriter Bill Withers died last week due to heart complications, his family announced on Friday. He was 81.

“We are devastated by the loss of our beloved, devoted husband and father”, Withers’ family said in a statement. “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”.

“As private a life as he lived close to intimate family and friends”, they went on, “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”.

Born in 1938, Withers originally made his career in the navy, enlisting at the age of seventeen and serving for nine years. It was only later that he became interested in making music and the possibility that it might be something he could do as a new career. He initially paid to record demoes himself, using money earned as an aircraft mechanic after leaving the armed forces.

He signed to Sussex Records in 1970 and, as a result of his delayed entry to the music industry, was 33 when he released his debut album, ‘Just As I Am’, the following year. With an unusual amount of life experience for a new pop star, he hit the ground running with one of his many classics, ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’, being his first single – it sold over one million copies in 1971 alone.

In 1975, after three albums, Sussex Records went out of business and Withers signed a new record deal with Columbia. Although during this time he delivered two more ubiquitous classics – ‘Lovely Day’ and ‘Just The Two Of Us – Withers disliked the more corporate atmosphere of the company. He also clashed with the label over what direction his music should take, leading to delays between albums and increasingly poor sales.

He parted ways with Columbia in 1985. Having already developed a dislike of touring, he effectively chose to end his career as a musician at this point. He did not entirely leave the business though, setting up a music publishing company run by his wife Marcia.

His last performance, one of very few since the 1980s, was at the 40th birthday party of Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores in 2004.

Withers is survived by Marcia and their children, Todd and Kori.