This week, the music community lost a little bit of its soul. Bill Withers, the legendary songsmith behind classics like "Ain't No Sunshine" and "Lean on Me," has passed away at 81 years old.
If you need some time time to just zone out with his music and pay proper tribute, we totally get you. So get comfy, get in your feels, and get tuned in to these five songs that we feel really capture the spirit of his music.
*Disclaimer* While some of the songs we picked are definite hits, we tried to stray away from just the Spotify top five. In that spirit, incredible songs like "Ain't No Sunshine", "Use Me", and "Grandma's Hands" are not listed here, even though they are undoubtedly some of his best works. Enjoy.
"Lovely Day" - Menagerie '77
Like we said, we're not gonna completely stray away from the hits. "Lovely Day" is definitely one of Withers's catchiest tracks, but it's also one of his most thoughtful and complex compositions. Combining elements of funk, soul, and psychedelia, "Lovely Day" truly highlights the innovative brilliance of Bill. The droning chorus has such a hypnotic element to it, you won't be able to get it out of your head for days. It's no wonder it became one of his most popular tunes.
"Hope She'll Be Happier" - Just As I Am '71
If you're looking for one of the most beautiful and painful songs about heartbreak, look no further than this first album gem. This sparse and subtle ballad highlights the power of Withers's undeniable vocal chops and talent for gorgeous melody. From the opening line, "Maybe the lateness of the hour makes me seem bluer than I am" to the belting climax "But she's gone," Withers shines the whole track through with a genuine feeling of loss that is unparalleled.
"I Don't Want You On My Mind" - Still Bill '72
This penultimate song on Still Bill is a groovy, slow blues that highlights the musical talent of Withers and everyone he played with. The lyrics are pretty simple. Mainly, it's about not wanting to be thinking about someone. But throughout, the band shows off their blues and improv chops as Withers's vocals get more and more intense. A definite jam.
"Don't Make Me Wait" - Watching You Watching Me '85
In 1985, Withers put out his last studio album, Watching You Watching Me. I don't know how it did upon release because I wasn't alive, but to me, it seems like a picture-perfect record of a man evolving his sound with the times, and even taking inspiration from people he probably inspired at some point. "Don't Make Me Wait" is a sexy, groovy song about gettin' it on, that just makes you wanna get up and shake your booty. Withers' voice sounds more mellow than ever and the musical tones sound perfectly 1985.
"Lean On Me (Live)" - Live at Carnegie Hall '73
What more is there really to say about this song other than, it's "Lean on Me"? It's a song we've all heard throughout our lives, whether or not we knew who to attribute the classic to. One of the most beautiful and simple tunes about loving your fellow human that has ever graced radio airwaves. Truly a magnum opus.
As we are all dealing with this loss as well as all of the rest of the craziness in the world, I would like to encourage everyone to take this as sort of a mantra. Help out your neighbor. Be kind.
Rest in Peace, Bill. Gone but never forgotten. Your influence and warm heart will live on for generations to come. Thanks for everything.