As we get closer to the 2015 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, I’ll share short and sweet profiles of the inductees and some lesson ideas. Bookmark it.
Bill Withers’ smooth delivery made his hits so distinct but so did his life experience, which bled into his work. He was 33 when he had his first hit and spent time in the Navy prior to releasing “Ain’t No Sunshine” but that didn’t stop him from writing some of the most famous songs in popular music history.
Musically, he paired the singer-songwriter style of the 1970s with R&B and disco flavors to create a style all his own. He left show business in 1985 after the “business” side began to interfere with the “show” but his songs have lived on in cover versions and samples by countless artists.
“Lean on Me”
Inducted into the GRAMMY Hall of Fame and one of only nine songs to top the Billboard chart with versions by two different artists, it’s an anthem from his second studio album. The familiar piano line was the first thing written as he was messing around on a new piano but it’s that simplicity coupled with the soaring vocal line that make it special.
“Just the Two of Us” with Grover Washington, Jr.
It won a GRAMMY in 1981 and is another great example of his singing style. It’s been used in a number of films and sampled or covered by many artists including Dr. Evil in the Austin Powers film series and Will Smith.
“No Diggity” by Blackstreet featuring Dr. Dre
This is most definitely not a Withers song, but it speaks to his influence. The group sampled Withers’ 1971 single “Grandma’s Hands” as the background track. It went to number one in 1996, knocking “Macarena” off it’s fourteen-week perch atop the charts.
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