I can’t put down in words what Bill Withers’ voice does to me. It is so simple, so natural, so soulful. His first 2 albums, Just As I Am & Still Bill are beautiful pieces of work, without pretension or gimmick, just straight from the heart soul. His career and music happened because of incredibly timing – a world needing something easy to bond with, but deep enough to make us think and emotionally move us. It’s the reason why his music was present during the birth of our child. Whenever a moment was still or passage was difficult, Bill’s voice would reach through like a healing hand.
No one song captures that feeling more than Lean On Me. Though it has been overused, poorly covered and watered down, it diminishes the feeling of hearing Bill sing his request to lean on him cause he’ll help you carry on. In the society unrest of the early 70s between race, gender and politics, this wasn’t just a welcome call. It was a uniting plea to come together and help each other without being condescending. That Bill could get funky on the chorus with a sparse bass, hand clap and drums was just icing on the cake.
I remember being in my backyard while my parents played the K-Tel album, Fantastic, which has this song on it. They’d move the speaker towards the window so we could hear the music outside. Bill’s voice sounded like God in a dark room. It would scare me and comfort me at the same time. It would make me run as much as it would pull me close. There aren’t many songs that can make my cry, just at the meer thought of them. Such is the power of Bill….
You’ve heard the 45 many times, so enjoy this 1973 live recording: