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Bill Withers, ‘Lean on Me’ Singer, Dies at 81

Bill Withers
poses in the winners room at the Ivor Novello Awards at Grosvenor House, on May 18, 2017 in London, England.

Bill Withers, the singer best known for the iconic “Lean on Me,” has died at the age of 81.

Withers’ family confirmed the news to the AP. Withers died from heart complications on Monday (March 30).

“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 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 in rural West Virginia on July 4, 1938, Withers’ music career didn’t begin until he was in his mid-30s. He previously served in the navy and worked at an aircraft parts factory thereafter. However, in his career, which ran from 1970-1985, Withers won three Grammys (and was nominated for nine overall). “Lean on Me,” however, is his best-known song. The song, which is an ode to friendship, has been performed at the inaugurations of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

Many of his songs remain radio staples. In addition to “Lean on Me,” Withers’ other hits include “Use Me,” “Ain’t No Sunshine,” and appearing on Grover Washington Jr’s “Just the Two Of Us.”

Withers was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015.