LOS ANGELES (CelebrityAccess) – Legendary soul singer Bill Withers has passed away at the age of 81.
Withers, who was best known for his hits “Lean On Me,” “Lovely Day,” “Ain’t No Sunshine,” and “Just The Two Of Us,” died from heart complications on Monday in Los Angeles, his family revealed in a statement to The Associated Press.
“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’s 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 William Harrison Withers Jr in 1938, he faced a difficult childhood in the coal mining town of Slab Fork, West Virginia. The youngest of six children, Bill’s parents divorced when he was just a toddler. A stutter made it difficult for him to make friends, and, after his father passed away when he was 13, his grandmother helped to raise him. At 17, Bill joined the Navy and spent nine years in the service as an aircraft mechanic installing toilets. In the late ’60s, he moved to Los Angeles and found a job working at an aircraft parts factory. It was during this time that he bought a guitar at a pawn shop and began recording his first demos.
Withers signed with Sussex Records in 1971. Though he eventually parted ways with the label on less than amicable terms, the songs he recorded for them are some of the most beloved in the American songbook. During the latter part of his career, the three-time Grammy Award winner recorded for Columbia Records, before going into early retirement in the mid-’80s.
Withers was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015 by Stevie Wonder.
He is survived by his wife, Marcia, and children, Todd and Kori.