PLAYLIST: Bill Wither's bluesy, soulful legacy
MANILA, Philippines – Whether you actually know the late Bill Withers or not, you'll definitely know at least one of his songs.
If you've heard "Ain't No Sunshine" performed by that singer at your local bar, then you've experienced Bill's music. The song, his breakthrough hit from his 1971 debut album, has been covered by everyone from aspiring musicians dipping their toes into the blues, to the likes of Joe Cocker, Michael Jackson, and Ladysmith Black Mambazo with Des'ree on the vocals.
If at any point in your life, you sang along to Blackstreet and Dr. Dre's "No Diggity" with gusto, you should know that the backing track includes a sample from "Grandma's Hands," a tribute to his grandmother and her wrinkled, loving hands. The list of artists that have covered that same song reads like a music industry who's who: Barbra Streisand, Gil Scott-Heron, Al Jarreau, Gladys Knight.
Bill's songs are that far-reaching. In recent times, another one of his signature songs, "Lean on Me," found a renewed meaning as people listened to it, shared it, and sang it to each other amidst this intensifying global pandemic.
"Lovely Day" as performed by a puesto band at a Makati restaurant, was the last bit of live music this writer was able to hear before venues were closed under the enhanced community quarantine.
The world is mourning the loss of the soul icon, who died on March 30 at the age of 81. But they are also thanking him for making the kind of music that carries people through days without sunshine. As Kjwan musician Enrique de Dios put it in a Facebook tribute, Bill's voice "always sounded like hope, even when you were singing the bluesiest of blues."
In memory of the soul icon, and in tribute to his legacy, here's a playlist of some of Bill's best songs: