Rest in peace. Bill Withers, who’s known for his hit song “Lean on Me,” died at the age of 81 from heart complications.
His family announced the sad news in a statement to The Associated Press on Friday, April 3. “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,” it read. “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.”
Bill connected with his fans through his music. He used songs like “Ain’t No Sunshine” and “Lovely Day” to welcome people into his world. But when the ’80s came around, he made the tough decision to walk away from music. In 1985, Bill released his last studio album, Watching You Watching Me.
“He’s the last African-American Everyman,” musician Questlove told Rolling Stone in April 2015 about his friend. “[Michael] Jordan’s vertical jump has to be higher than everyone. Michael Jackson has to defy gravity. On the other side of the coin, we’re often viewed as primitive animals. We rarely land in the middle. Bill Withers is the closest thing black people have to a Bruce Springsteen.”
By walking away from his lucrative career, some people believed Bill died. “Sometimes I wake up and I wonder myself,” the “Use Me” singer joked to Rolling Stone. But, in 2015, he put all those rumors to rest when he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
“I see it as an award of attrition,” Bill said. “What few songs I wrote during my brief career, there ain’t a genre that somebody didn’t record them in. I’m not a virtuoso, but I was able to write songs that people could identify with. I don’t think I’ve done bad for a guy from Slab Fork, West Virginia.”
He sure hasn’t! We’ll miss you, Bill.