Bill Withers death: John Legend leads emotional tributes to Ain’t No Sunshine singer

Iconic singer-songwriter dead at 81

Clémence Michallon
Friday 03 April 2020 19:29
Bill Withers and John Legend perform during the 30th Annual Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony on 18 April 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio.
Bill Withers and John Legend perform during the 30th Annual Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony on 18 April 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio.

John Legend and many more are paying tribute to Bill Withers, who has died aged 81.

The news was announced on Friday by the singer-songwriter’s family.

“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” Legend tweeted after the news broke.

He also reflected on a video of himself covering Withers’s song “I Can’t Write Left Handed” with The Roots, revealing that it was the starting point of his friendship with Withers.

“Bill and I became friends after he saw this YouTube clip. His friend Bill Russell (yes that Bill Russell) called him up and told him to check it out,” Legend wrote. “Then he emailed someone who then emailed my manager who then forwarded it to me. He loved our version. My year was made.”

Many others on social media have paid tribute to the iconic artist, whose best-known hits include “Lean On Me” and “Ain’t No Sunshine”.

Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers wrote on Instagram: “Ahh man. Has anyone ever sang popular music better? Take a bath in that voice. He touched my heart every time. He had no interest in fame-game and power, so he stepped away from the music business as a young man, after he got what he needed, and enjoyed his life. His songs will always sound fresh, exciting, deep and sexy as f***. Bill Withers I love you, an infinite wellspring of inspiration and joy. I’m about to crank up some Bill and let the cosmic healing energies of his voice flow through me once again. If you can, google Old Grey Whistle Test and check his performance on that show. The great James Gadson on drums too.”

MP David ​Lammy said news of Withers’s death had left him “broken”, adding: “So many joyous memories listening to Bill Withers albums back to back. From “Lean On Me “ to “Ain’t No Sunshine” his music is like a warm cup of hot chocolate after the best soul food – Deeply fulfilling! Thank you Bill #RipBillWithers​”

DJ and actor Craig Charles wrote: ”Bill Withers a giant from the golden era of black American music has passed. STILL BILL is like a greatest hits album heartbreaking celebratory joyous soul RIP BILL”

CNN’s Jake Tapper shared a video of Withers performing the latter tune, writing simply: ”RIP Bill Withers.”

Valerie Jarrett, a former advisor to Barack Obama, wrote: ”Since my early high school days, Bill Withers’ music has been a cherished part of my life. It added to my joy in the good times, and also gave me comfort and inspiration when I needed it most. RIP.”

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Filmmaker Matthew A Cherry, who directed the Oscar-winning short animated film Hair Love, tweeted: ”Rest In Peace Bill Withers” next to a crying emoji.

Craig Melvin of the Today show also paid tribute to Withers, writing: ”Ain’t no sunshine today. Nothing Lovely about it. RIP Bill Withers.”

CNN commentator Keith Boykin credited Withers for releasing “some of the best songs ever made”, adding: “May he rest in peace.”

Musician Tom Misch expressed his sorrow, writing simply “Bill Withers” next to a crying emoji and a heart.

A statement issued by Withers’s family on Friday reads in part: “We are devastated by the loss of our beloved, devoted husband and father.

“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.”

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