Bill Withers Remembered by Chance the Rapper, Brian Wilson, Questlove: ‘The Greatest’

“My heart really hurts for him, it reminds me of playing records with at my grandma’s house,” Chance says of the late songwriter

Last Updated: April 3, 2020 @ 9:26 AM

Bill Withers is being remembered by music luminaries such as Chance the Rapper, Brian Wilson, Questlove, Mark Ronson, Kacey Musgraves and many more as “one of the greatest vocalists and songwriters ever.”

Withers died Monday at the age of 81 due to heart complications. And though he gave up music and stardom in the mid-1980s, his soulful and inspiring tracks like “Lean on Me,” “Ain’t No Sunshine,” “Lovely Day,” “Just the Two of Us” and many more live on in the memories of those he’s influenced.

“Aw man, Bill Withers was really the greatest. ‘Grandma’s Hands,’ ‘Ain’t No Sunshine,’ ‘Lean on Me,’ ‘Use Me Up,’ ‘Just The Two Of Us’ and obviously ‘Lovely Day’ are some of the best songs of all time,” Chance the Rapper said in a tweet Friday. “My heart really hurts for him, it reminds me of playing records with at my grandma’s house.”

The Roots’ Questlove referred to Withers as “our Springsteen” as one of the last great examples of an everyman, working class, blue-collar musician.

“This news is super devastating. Just this week alone losing Vaughn Mason, Ellis Marsalis, Manu Dibango, & Wallace Rooney….was painful but Bill Withers man….this guy was my FIRST idol before The Jackson 5ive or Prince,” Questlove said on Instagram. “He was our Springsteen…our Everyman. One of the last celebrated blue collar musicians. Man this hurts to hear.”

Withers grew up in a coal mining town in West Virginia and was the youngest of six children, raised only by his mother and grandmother after his father passed when he was young. Before becoming a musician and moving to Los Angeles, he worked in a factory and spent nine years installing toilets as an aircraft mechanic in service of the Navy. He even wrote “Lean on Me” based on his experience growing up in West Virginia.

Some of his more direct influences in the folk and soul worlds include artists like John Legend, Lauryn Hill, D’Angelo and even Stevie Wonder, who introduced him when Withers was inducted into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame in 2015. But artists within pop, country, rap and rock all took to social media Friday to say how Withers was an inspiration to their work as well.

“If you are unaware of just how important Bill Withers is to hiphop, Google “Who sampled Bill Withers,” Talib Kweli said on Instagram. “If you are unaware of how important Bill Withers is to music and to our culture, watch the Still Bill documentary. Keep your loved ones in your heart, always.”

“I got to sing beside Bill at The Rock Hall of Fame in 2015 when he was inducted. He was the coolest warmest man and his speech was the funniest and most humble. We all fell in love with him that night. What a guy,” Yeah Yeah Yeahs singer Karen O said on Instagram.

Others also recommended the 2009 documentary “Still Bill,” named for his chart topping 1972 album of the same name, to see other ways in which Withers touched the hearts of people everywhere with his music and his spirit.

See more tributes to Withers below:

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Rest well Bill Withers.

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