Soul great Bill Withers dies, aged 81: musicians pay tribute

Soul singer-songwriter Bill Withers has died of heart complications at the age of 81, his family have said. In a statement released to The Associated Press, they confirmed that he died in Los Angeles on Monday.

“We are devastated by the loss of our beloved, devoted husband and father,” says the 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, 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.”

Lean On Me, one of Withers’ most celebrated tracks, has recently become an anthem for those suffering amid the coronavirus pandemic. Originally released in 1972, it’s been covered by countless artists since and is widely regarded as a classic.

Other hits included the plaintive Ain’t No Sunshine, another pop standard, and the sparse and affecting Grandma’s Hands. 1972’s Use Me demonstrated that Withers had funk in his bones, too, and he scored a pop hit in 1977 with Lovely Day.

Withers was a unique voice in American soul music, and a man whose quiet brilliance has influenced generations of musicians. Many of them have been paying tribute on social media.

Ben Rogerson
Deputy Editor

I’m the Deputy Editor of MusicRadar, having worked on the site since its launch in 2007. I previously spent eight years working on our sister magazine, Computer Music. I’ve been playing the piano, gigging in bands and failing to finish tracks at home for more than 30 years, 24 of which I’ve also spent writing about music and the ever-changing technology used to make it.