Soul legend Bill Withers died on Monday in Los Angeles. He was 81.
The three-time Grammy winner behind 1970s hits like “Lean on Me,” “Lovely Day,” and “Ain’t No Sunshine” succumbed to heart complications, his family told The Associated Press.
“We are devastated by the loss of our beloved, devoted husband and father,” his 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, 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’ music became the soundtrack to weddings, engagements, and other celebratory occasions. His 1972 hit “Lean on Me” has seen a resurgence as an anthem of hope during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Withers, who was born in Slab Fork, West Virginia, was well into his 30s when he began recording music. Throughout his 14-year career, he released eight albums starting with 1971’s Just As I Am, with his last in 1985. He entered the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999 and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015.
“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,” Withers told Rolling Stone in 2015.
The music community mourned the loss including Jennifer Hudson, Jhené Aiko, and Chance the Rapper. “My heart really hurts for him, it reminds me of playing records with at my grandma’s house,” said the Chicago rapper, while Hudson added, “Although his music will live on, he will truly be missed!”
Aw man, Bill Withers was really the greatest. Grandma’s Hands, Ain’t No Sunshine, Lean on Me, Use Me Up, Just The Two Of Us and obviously Lovely Day are some of the best songs of all time. My heart really hurts for him, it reminds me of playing records with at my grandma’s house
— Chance The Rapper (@chancetherapper) April 3, 2020
Mourning the loss of my friend and inspiration, Bill Withers. He was such an incredible songwriter and storyteller. I'm so glad he shared his gift with the world. Life wouldn't be the same without him.
— John Legend (@johnlegend) April 3, 2020
RIP BILL 🧡🌞
— Kehlani (@Kehlani) April 3, 2020
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This news is super devastating. Just this week alone losing Vaughn Mason, Ellis Marsalis, Manu Dibango, & Wallace Rooney….was painful but Bill Withers man….this guy was my FIRST idol before The Jackson 5ive or Prince. He was our Springsteen…our Everyman. One of the last celebrated blue collar musicians. Man this hurts to hear.