Bill Withers, Singer-Songwriter of ‘Lean on Me,’ ‘Lovely Day’ Fame, Dies at 81

Bill Withers, the Grammy-winning singer-songwriter best known for a run of 1970s soul hits including “Lean on Me,” “Ain’t No Sunshine” and “Lovely Day,” died from heart complications, his family told The Associated Press. He was 81.

Withers died Monday in Los Angeles, the family statement said.

“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,” the family statement read. “As private a life as he lived close to intimate family and friends, his music forever belongs to the world. In this difficult time, we pray his music offers comfort and entertainment as fans hold tight to loved ones.”

Born July 4, 1938, in Slab Fork, West Virginia, Withers overcame a childhood stutter to become one of the most successful soul singers of the 1970s and early 1980s. His 1971 debut album “Just as I Am,” recorded after a nine-year stint in the Navy, featured “Grandma’s Hands” and the Grammy-winning “Ain’t No Sunshine.”

His string of hit songs throughout the rest of the decade includes “Use Me,” “Lovely Day,” “Kissing My Love” and “Lean on Me,” the latter becoming Withers’ lone Billboard #1 record in 1972.

After 1981’s “Just the Two of Us,” a Grammy-winning duet with saxophonist Grover Washington Jr., Withers’ recording career slowed, with his last studio album coming in 1985. But his music remained popular with other artists through covers and samples, with a hit remake of “Lean on Me” by Club Noveau, featured in the 1987 film of the same name, earning Withers his third Grammy.

Withers was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015.

He is survived by his wife, Marcia, and children, Todd and Kori.

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