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Bill Withers Dead: The Best 7 Songs From The Soul Legend

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Bill Withers Dead: The Best 7 Songs From The Soul Legend

William Harrison Withers Jr. was best known to the music world as Bill Withers, and his career spanned the course of several decades. His unique voice helped define modern soul music for generations, and he was so influential that samples of his songs were used in other hit songs in other genres. He was nominated for seven Grammy awards, and won three. He was also inducted into the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame in 2015, and was the subject of a 2009 documentary called Still Bill. Unfortunately, on April 3, 2020, Withers died at the age of 81 due to heart complications. It goes without saying, then, that his death has rocked the music world. 

In his honor, we've compiled a list of some of the best songs of Withers' career. 

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Here are the best Bill Withers songs.

7. "Grandma's Hands"

Fans of Tyler Perry's hit movie Madea's Family Reunion remember this song being used in some of the film's pivotal scenes. But before that, the 1971 track was included on Withers' debut album Just As I Am, and was about his grandmother, who was born into slavery. Al Jackson Jr. and Dick Dunn from Booker T & The MGs were two of the prominent musicians featured on the track, and it's perhaps best known by Generation X as being sampled in the smash Blackstreet hit, "No Diggity." 

6. "Use Me"

This 1972 track was included on Withers' second album, Still Bill, and peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard soul charts. Interestingly, it was kept out of the No. 1 spot by a very unusual song: "Ben" by Michael Jackson, which was the King of Pop's tribute to a rat. "Use Me" was subsequently covered by the legendary Grace Jones in 1981, who gave it a "reggae" flavor.

5. "(She Wants To) Get On Down"

While "(She Wants To) Get On Down," which was originally released in 1975, isn't perhaps as well known in the mainstream as some of his other tracks, it's a testament to Withers' resilience, as it was the first single he'd released after a three-year hiatus. He was on hiatus because of disputes with his then-former label, Sussex Records, which was resolved when Columbia Records bought out the contract. "(She Wants To) Get On Down" was also featured in the film Looking for Mr. Goodbar.

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4. "Just The Two of Us"

Few songs could be considered as "smooth" as "Just The Two Of Us," which was released in 1980. Both Grover Washington Jr. and Withers recorded version of the song the same year, though it was Withers who wrote the song in the first place. Like "Grandma's Hands," "Just The Two Of Us" was sampled by many artists in hip hop, including Will Smith (who "covered" the song in a rap tribute of the same name to his eldest son), Tiro de Gracia ("El Juego Verdadero"), and Eminem ("97 Bonnie & Clyde"). 

3. "Lovely Day"

Released in 1978, "Lovely Day" was a song recorded by Withers but written by Skip Scarborough. Withers' sustained note at the end of the song clocks in at 18 seconds long, which is one of the longest sustained notes ever recorded on a song. It got a new life in the form of a dance song when Michelle Visage (yes, that Michelle Visage from RuPaul's Drag Race) covered it with S.O.U.L. S.Y.S.T.E.M. back in 1992, and that version was featured in the film The Bodyguard starring the late, great Whitney Houston.

2. "Ain't No Sunshine"

"Ain't No Sunshine" was one of Withers' first-ever Grammy-winning tracks, and was considered a breakthrough track for Withers after it reached No. 6 on the R&B charts. But "Ain't No Sunshine" has another unusual distinction: it was the only song by Withers to be covered by both Ladysmith Black Mambazo (and their version of song went to No. 42 in the UK) and the metal band Black Label Society (and their version of the song went to No. 42 in Canada).

1. "Lean on Me"

This is, perhaps, the definitive song by Bill Withers, and it was listed in Rolling Stone's list of "Top 500 Songs of All Time." It was also the only song by Withers to reach No. 1 on the Billboard charts, was the No. 7 song of 1972, and was one of only nine songs ever to have reached No. 1 in the US Singles Charts with versions recorded by two different artists (Withers and Club Nouveaux, whose version of the song went to No. 1 in 1987).

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Rest in peace, Bill Withers. 

Bernadette Giacomazzo is an editor, writer, publicist, and photographer whose work has appeared in Teen Vogue, People, Us Weekly, The Source, XXL, HipHopDX, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Post, BET.com, and more.