Bill Withers, the famous 1970s soul singer behind the hits Ain’t No Sunshine and Lean On Me, died of heart complications at age 81, his family said.
The singer died on Monday in Los Angeles, the family told The Associated Press.
They described him in a statement as “a lonely man with a heart to connect to the world.”
“He spoke honestly to people and connected them to each other,” said the statement.
Known for his baritone voice and lavish soul arrangements, he has written some of the most memorable songs of the 70s, including Just The Two Of Us, Lovely Day and Use Me.
Although he stopped recording in 1985, his songs remained a major influence on R&B and hip-hop.
His song Grandma’s Hands was sampled on Blackstreet’s No Diggity, and Eminem reinterpreted Just The Two Of Us on his 1997 hit Bonnie And Clyde.
“We are devastated by the loss of our beloved and devoted husband and father,” said his family.
“With his poetry and his music, he spoke honestly to people and connected them to each other.
“As private as his life, close to his family and close friends, his music forever belongs to the world. In these difficult times, we pray that his music will provide comfort and entertainment while the fans hold dear to their loved ones. “
The star’s flagship song, Lean On Me, recently became associated with the coronavirus pandemic, with many people releasing their own versions to support health workers and other essential services.
Born in 1938, Withers was the youngest of six children. His father died when he was a child and he was raised by his mother and grandmother.
His entry into the music world came late – at the age of 29 – after nine years in the Navy
He learned to play the guitar himself between shifts making toilet seats for the Boeing aircraft company, and used his salary to pay for studio sessions in Los Angeles.
“I understand that you don’t have to be a virtuoso to accompany you,” he told Rolling Stone magazine in 2015.
He recorded his first album, Just As I Am, with Booker T Jones in 1970. It included the sad ballad Ain’t No Sunshine, which earned him his first Grammy Award the following year.
He scored another million dollar success with Lean On Me in 1972.
Inspired by the gospel and inspiring, it was based on his experience in a mining town in West Virginia. When times were tough, neighbors lent each other help and assistance.
It was then played during the inaugurations of Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.
But Withers left the top, moving away from his career after scoring a pop hit with Just The Two of Us, although he did occasionally tour with Grover Washington Jr in the 1990s.
Despite his influence on generations of musicians, he did not follow music after the end of his career.
“These days,” he said in 2015, “I don’t know of a Pop-Tart pop painting. “