Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Bill Withers never really seemed to fit into any category - and didn't seem to care - but he was such an incredible songwriter. (I use the past tense, because he is one of the few musicians to retire and stay retired. He's the first to remind you that he's retired if you talk about his career in the present tense.) He is in the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and I think he should also be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

People may not think of him as rocking because of "Lean On Me" and "Just The Two Of Us," which are incredible songs.  But hell, if "You Don't Bring Me Flowers" didn't keep Neil Diamond out of the Hall of Fame, surely "Lean" and "Two Of Us" shouldn't bother anyone.

His debut album, 1971's Just As I Am, is just classic. Produced by Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Booker T.  Jones, (and featuring lead guitar from another hall of famer, Stephen Stills), it is funky and badass as hell (the late, great, Al Jackson Jr. plays drums on many songs - the drummer for Booker T. & The MGs, he played on tons of Stax classics, as well as on many of Al Green's greatest songs). With classics like "Grandma's Hands," "Harlem" and the immortal "Ain't No Sunshine," plus covers of "Everybody's Talkin'" and The Beatles' "Let It Be," it's just amazing.

The follow-up, 1972's Still Bill, was also incredible: it has the ubiquitous  "Lean On Me," but also two really funky badass tunes, "Use Me" and "Who Is He (And What Is He To You?)" And after that is one of the best live albums ever, 1973's Live At Carnegie Hall, which has one of his most powerful songs, "I Can't Write Left Handed," which John Legend & The Roots covered on Wake Up. That's pretty much what you need to know about Bill.  He had some cool songs after that - "Just The Two Of Us," and also "Lovely Day" - but the first three records are the real deal.  Do yourself a favor and pick them up, and then see if you agree with me, I bet you will.

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