Vale Bill Withers

William Harrison Withers Jr, known to most as Bill, has passed away from heart complications, aged 81.


Bill Withers was a music star with a genuine common touch. Born to a large West Viginian family, Withers spent nine years in the navy, and still retained a day job even after his first single, Ain’t No Sunshine, hit big. Not finding success until his early 30’s, Withers retained a more balanced view of the music industry than most. The cover of his debut album, Just As I Am, found him pictured in a plain t-shirt and jeans, holding a lunch box, ready for work.


He recorded his early hits on the Sussex label, mixing soul, pop,and funk, often with a distinctive folk flavour. When Sussex folded in 1975, he ended up with Columbia Records, but never really seemed to warm to their executives’ (he derogatorily called them ‘blaxperts’) attempts to tamper with his music. He finished with Columbia in 1985 and never re-signed with another label. He had a life before music, and he had one after it.


You may not have known Bill Withers by name, but there’s a fair chance you knew at least some of his songs.


Let’s start with the two big hits, oft-covered by other artists.







Then this, off his first album, Grandma’s Hands.



Then track 1 of his debut album, Harlem. It was intended as the A-side, but Ain’t No Sunshine was the B-side.



This was the other single off Still Bill, Use Me.



And finally, a low key funky song of jealousy and suspicion, Who Is He (And What Is He To You)?.




Thanks for the tunes, Bill.




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About John Butler

John Butler has fled the World's Most Liveable Car Park and now breathes the rarefied air of the Ballarat Plateau. For his sins, he has passed his 40th year as a Carlton member.


  1. Rick Kane says

    Excellent summary JB, and good set of song references. Especially Use Me, showing he could get his soul funk sound grooving to a sex beat as good as Marvin. And man, what a voice.


  2. Great voice and melodies. Sang in a lower register than most black male singers. Melted chocolate rather than honey.
    Look after yourself JB. The good ones are dropping like flies.

  3. Frank Taylor says

    Nice one John
    I didn’t realise that Bill had passed away until Pierre Baroni announced it on his show, Soul Groove 66 on PBS yesterday (Saturday).
    He played Ain’t no Sunshine and Lean on Me as his closing two tracks.
    I wonder what the neighbours and birds thought about the rendition they heard coming from the overall clad, headset-wearing bloke cleaning the paths around his place sung at top volume…..
    Rick and Peter, I’ll second your comments
    vale Bill

  4. John Butler says

    Thanks folks.

    And thank you, Bill.

  5. Nice tribute, JB.
    Bill was all class.

  6. Andrew Starkie says

    On ya, JB.

    And she’s always gone too long…

  7. John Butler says

    Sounds like the basis of a country song, Starkers.

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