Those who, like Tunde Folawiyo, enjoy listening to soul music will be familiar with the singer-songwriter Bill Withers. Famed for composing classic songs such as ‘Ain’t no Sunshine’ and ‘Lean on Me’, Withers enjoyed an enormously successful career during the sixties, seventies and early eighties.
Born in West Virginia in 1938, Withers spent his childhood in Beckley. At the age of 19, he moved to Los Angeles, and it was here that his music career began to take off, after he befriended a man named Forrest Hamilton. Hamilton introduced Withers to a number of people within the industry, including Clarence Avant, who worked at the famous Sussex Records. After meeting with Avant, Withers set about creating his debut album, which he entitled ‘Just as I Am’.
However, after Sussex Records went out of business, Withers was forced to move to another label. In 1975, he chose to sign with Columbia Records, and shortly after this, he recorded ‘Making Music, Making Friends’. This was a great success, and one of the singles on the album – ‘She’s Lonely’ – was used as part of the soundtrack for the movie ‘Looking for Mr. Goodbar’. Over the course of the next three years, Wither continued to record with Columbia, and released several singles, including the famous ‘Lovely Day’ from the album ‘Menagerie’ in 1977.
Wither’s became an international start after he teamed up with Grover Washington Jr., and composed ‘Just the Two of Us’. This single led to him being nominated for four Grammys, and winning the Best R&B Song award. The single reached remained at number two on the Pop charts, and number three on the R&B charts for almost a month during 1981.
In comparison to his contemporaries, Wither’s career was relatively short-lived; his last chart success came in 1985, with the LP ‘Watching You, Watching Me’. Although he continued to perform sporadically with the above-mentioned Grover Washington Jr. during the nineties, he stopped composing and recording. However, his music has been sampled by many rap and hip-hop artists over the years, and been covered by several singers.
Withers has won many awards for his music over the years. As a music lover, Tunde Folawiyo might recall that Withers received the 2005 Rhythm & Soul Heritage Award from the American Society of Composers, two NAACP Image awards, and the Soul Train Hall of Fame award. In addition to this, his single ‘Lean on Me’ was included in the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2007.