At age 77, Bill Withers, writer/performer of the timeless pop songs like “Lean On Me,” “Aint No Sunshine,” and “Just the Two of Us” is still with us and maybe far more normal than many of his former pop star peers. The film shows Bill revisiting his humble upbringing in Slab Fork, West Virginia, how he went from constructing toilets to novice musician, to unmistakable songwriter and performer, to pop-star legend. His recent induction in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015 is also covered in the film, as Bill makes a rare return to the pubic eye and graciously accepts his award with the most genuine, candid and entertaining speech of the evening.
We learn how Bill overcame challenges early in life (including a speech impediment) and honed his songwriting craft almost on a whim. Bill’s unmistakable knack for writing hit records with universal appeal came unusually natural, along with his vocals, piano-playing, guitar and overall genuine performance skills. His music will always be a tremendous part of our lives and culture, and that is rare. But what stands out most about this great human being is his humility and his ability to acknowledge that we may be only a channel through which something great can shine, if the Divine should find us.
Bill shows his appreciation and the value of being raised in a small town, earning a fair living through hard work while in and out of the military. But like very few to enter the music industry, Mr. Withers allowed his talents for songwriting, singing and performing music to develop later in life. After his much-deserved success, Bill is one of few celebrities who opted out of the business after a brief few album career, focusing on family life and more simple pleasures.
Bill Withers astounding body of work (however brief) will continue to move anyone with a heartbeat or mind and ear for pop music as an art form. It’s with almost too much humility and a casual grace that he accepts his role as a conduit for something so big. But more importantly, Bill learns that sharing his story as a person with a speech impediment far surpasses his musical work, when we see him attend and speak at events, inspiring children and adults with the same affliction. He’s aware that a person’s integrity goes beyond success in the mainstream music business, where human beings are put on pedestals, often earning unnecessary or excessive wealth and fame.
This lovely film conveys how some great pop music may come along only once in a lifetime, but a man who chooses integrity, principal, empathy and an appreciation for family and loved ones is far more valuable.
Still Bill is a definite must see movie.