I never met Bill Withers. I never had an opportunity to see Bill Withers in concert (though I have listened to his live album dozens of times). That said, Withers was one of the people whom I deeply admired. Yes, I grew up on his songs and proudly own a large segment of his catalog. The man had an amazing voice; gruff but endearing, and as a composer he had a knack for penning music that was simple, yet mesmerizing and addictive in terms of "ear candy" potential. To this day I only need to hear a couple of bars of "Lovely Day" and the damn song starts running on my internal playback system.
Just as impressive was the man. Growing up poor, he never let the star machinery get to him. Proud of his roots, including his time in the Navy, his first album featured a cover of him standing in front of the L.A. factory he was working at (manufacturing toilets and plumbing materials). He never let it define who he was. Even at the zenith of his commercial success he remained grounded. When the music business tried to bend him to it's expectations, he walked away and never looked back, instead focusing his attention on family and retaining his privacy.
I never met Bill Withers, but I can't help but feel collectively we would be a lot better off with more Bill Withers. Rest in Peace (July 1938 - March 2020)