Sunday, September 18, 2011

Still Bill: The Story Of Bill Withers

I have to admit it......I have a man crush on Bill Withers. Yeah, he's 30 years older than I am, but maybe he'll wait?  

How is it that I have just found out over the past six months or so, how great Bill Withers and his music are? I've been a lover of music since I was moving into my teenage years. Sure, I had a handle on the classics, "Lean On Me" and "Ain't No Sunshine". Plus, "Use Me" along with "Just The Two Of Us" were also on my radar. But he has done much more than that. He has crafted out some soulful tunes that can pick at your emotional heartstrings as well as prompting your brain to understand how valuable relationships with others are. He brings you a story and dares you to not care. The mans voice has such richness and earnest that it's most difficult to not feel his music as well as hear it. 

A song like "Grandma's Hands" is a one in a million. A very short tune that is devoted to one of the most iconic characters in our young life. Often times there is a reverence, almost a mystical connection between a grandmother and the offspring of her children. Withers allows you to pull out the file in your mind.....the one that houses the memories of your grandmother and let's you appreciate her without becoming overly sappy or emotional. You know it just feels good to think about grandma's love and care.

In listening to some interviews with Bill Withers, it hasn't been difficult for me to pick up on his want to be at peace with those in his life. Pride is usually a big obstacle when two friends have a rift between them. Nobody wants to be in the wrong and sometimes, it's really easy to hurt the ones you love. Withers wants to put that away and focus on using the time we have left in the world on making connections and spreading love. Isn't that a better way to spend time with the people we care about? Isn't sharing much better than withholding? 

When Withers was making his first marks in the music world back in the late 60's and early 70's, the insanity surrounding the nations feelings about the Vietnam War triggered quite a bit of commentary from our artists, whether it be in the form of a television show, a song, a film, photography, or painting. With the grand scope of the war and our reactions to it, there were many great pieces of art that didn't quite touch all the way down to the bone.....all the way down to a personal level. This great song is about a young person who had his arm taken in the war and how he sees his life and the world in the aftermath of his injury. 

These are just a few of Withers more culturally significant songs. Withers also does the "love" songs well too. Many times focusing on the dynamics of a relationship that are not always topical. Mistrust. Paranoia. Doubt. Forgiveness. Admiration. Dedication. This is his last "hit" song, but it's certainly not among the least of his work. It's sweet and mellow Withers begs that we not "hesitate" or "wait too late" to enjoy the love in our life. I barely remember this song from the early 80's, because back then I was too hopped up on MTV and Top 40 radio to understand that R & B and soul had just as much, if not more, to offer a confused, love torn, and frustrated teenager. 

Finally, I want to pimp a documentary (Still Bill) that I have BEGGED people to watch. Even if you don't like his music, there is a wisdom and patience to the man when you listen to him talk about the things he went through in his life and how he has shaped his life the way he wants it to be with little influence from those outside of his family. He is his own man. Withers has a lot of wisdom in him and it probably wouldn't hurt any of us to stop and see the world from the outside from time to time. Withers jumped off the "world go 'round" and is enjoying his life. The documentary, if nothing else, reveals a man who knows where he's been, where he's at, and where he is going. His life is lived on his terms and he doesn't say or do anything that isn't who Bill Withers is. How rare a trait that is, in our culture. To hear him talk about how he wouldn't change himself for the music industry is awesome. Withers said he had a job at a toilet factory and if he couldn't make his music, his way, he'd just stick with that. No compromise. You can find "Still Bill" on Netflix, IFC, Hulu, and you may be able to watch it on You Tube.

Well, if you have made it this far down the blog, then I am guessing you have enjoyed hearing about Bill Withers. So, I'm going to give you a treat for sticking with me......

Clear your mind and let Bill Withers lay down some rays of sunshine for you. Damn, there are certain songs in this world that just make you happy to be able to breathe the air!!!  Thanks for checking out my blog.