SiriusXM remembers soul legend Bill Withers, dead at 81

SiriusXM is sad to report that the iconic “Lean on Me” singer has passed away at age 81 from heart complications, his family said in a statement.

Matt Simeone
April 3, 2020

Singer-songwriter Bill Withers poses for a portrait in circa 1973. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

SiriusXM is sad to report that Bill Withers — the legendary singer who wrote and recorded several of the definitive soul songs of the 1970s, including “Lean on Me,” “Ain’t No Sunshine,” and “Lovely Day” — has passed away at age 81 from heart complications, his family said in a statement.

Tune in to SiriusXM’s Soul Town (Ch. 49), The Bridge (Ch. 32), VOLUME (Ch. 106), and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Radio (Ch. 310) now to hear Withers’ music, as well as tributes about him, throughout the day. In celebration of the music great’s life and legacy, VOLUME will also rebroadcast a special 2017 episode of Layin’ It Down with Steve Jordan in which Jordan interviews Withers today at 6pm ET — or listen to the full special On Demand here now, as well as another exclusive interview that features Withers and rock ‘n’ roll icon Chubby Checker starting at the 27:42 mark On Demand here.“We are devastated by the loss of our beloved, devoted husband and father,” the family’s statement said. “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. 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.”

William Harrison Withers Jr. was born July, 1938, in Slab Fork, West Virginia. While working as an aircraft assembler at the age of 30, he began recording demo tapes and shopping them around while performing in clubs at night. During this time, he experienced his musical breakthrough, recording “Ain’t No Sunshine”in 1971. Selling over a million copies, the hit would earn Withers his first GRAMMY (for Best R&B Song).

Withers later released several more major hits such as “Use Me” and Just the “Two of Us.” He also wrote and produced music for Gladys Knight and The Pips and more. During his career, Withers won three GRAMMY awards and entered the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015. He’s survived by his wife Marcia Johnson and their two children, Todd and Kori.

Watch a clip from an exclusive Soul Town interview with Withers from 2010 below.