WEST VIRGINIA (LOOTPRESS) – William Harrison Withers Jr. was an American singer/songwriter whose legacy only continues to grow each year following his 2020 passing.
A Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee, Withers’ timeless hits such as “Ain’t No Sunshine” and “Lean on Me” continue to resonate with listeners half a century after the fact.
Born the youngest of six children in the coal-mining town of Slab Fork, WV in 1938, Withers grew up in Beckley, and enlisted in the US Navy at 19 years old. It was during this time he would develop his interest in music and songcraft.
Upon leaving the Navy in 1965, Withers set up shop in Los Angeles to pursue a career in music while continuing to work in assembly for a number of companies.
Withers signed with Sussex records in 1970, and his debut album Just As I Am – produced by Booker T. Jones and featuring lead guitar from Stephen Stills of Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills & Nash – was released the following year. The album’s cover features a photograph of Withers on his lunch break at Weber Aircraft holding his lunchbox.
Withers’ smooth baritone and melodic instinct has endeared his material to generations of listeners and musicians, and his music has been some of the most covered of the decade in which they were recorded.
He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by the one and only Stevie Wonder in 2015. “What few songs I wrote during my brief career, there ain’t a genre that somebody didn’t record them in,” Withers said of the honor. “I’m not a virtuoso, but I was able to write songs that people could identify with. I don’t think I’ve done bad for a guy from Slab Fork, West Virginia.”
Withers has been honored in Raleigh County each year since his passing, with the annual Bill Withers Memorial Festival. With the inaugural festival having taken place in 2021, the festival returned this year, with Raleigh County singer/songwriter and musician Matt Mullens taking on the role of musical director for this year’s celebration – more on that here.
The timeless music and legacy of Bill Withers continues to inspire today, and acts as an immense source of pride to residents of his old West Virginia stomping grounds.
So on this July 4th we celebrate not only the birth of American independence, but also one of the Mountain State’s most iconic exports – the one and only Bill Withers.