By Vinny Hardy
I’m not a music expert of any kind. I’m just a regular guy who, like lots and lots of other people, loves music. From time to time I’ll write about a musician or write something with a musical reference in it. I wrote a little something when the legendary B.B. King passed away in 2015. Bill Withers’ passing compelled me to do the same.
I got to see B.B. King in concert in 2002. He was 76 years of age and the show was still on point. He hadn’t lost anything. Unfortunately, I never got to see Bill Withers perform live as he didn’t tour or do many live shows after rising to prominence in the 1970’s.
Like King, Withers was someone that my grandparents, parents and I could all agree on. If a Bill Withers song was playing in the background at a family function you knew there weren’t be any complaints. His appeal is that broad and his impact is that strong.
There are Bill Withers songs for every phase of my life. Club Nouveau’s cover of Lean On Me was one of my favorite songs in third grade in 1986. The way they started the song with the piano from the original before putting their own spin on it was perfect.
I’ve always been partial to Lovely Day. It came out in 1977, the year I was born.
It would’ve been great no matter what year it was released.
And Grandma’s Hands . . . iconic doesn’t even do it justice.
If you don’t believe me, look at all of the artists who covered that track.
Al Jarreau, Gil Scott-Heron, Barbara Streisand, Gladys Knight, Willie Nelson, The Staples Singers, Meg Mac, Simply Red, Livingston Taylor, Ann Nesby, Jeff Lorber, Will Downing, Gregroy Porter, Take 6, Josh Garrels, Marti Pellow, Tony Orlando
And then Blackstreet also sampled it in No Diggity.
It goes without saying. Bill Withers’ talent was undeniable and he will be missed. He produced a lot of wonderful music in a short span of time and every bit of it is marvelously timeless. It’s all just as good now as it was the day it was released. And I didn’t even mention Use Me or Ain’t No Sunshine.
Things are crazy and up in the air right now. Take a few minutes and play some Bill Withers songs while you’re hunkered down and sheltering in place. Maybe you’ve heard his classics countless times or this might be your introductory foray into his catalog of hits. Either way, you’ll be glad you did.