Review Summary: He was a few parts soul, some blues, even some country; but he was funky in all the right places, and he wrote songs that spoke to the most human of all parts, the heart.
It was my freshman year in college, and I, like most of cohorts, was just another cog in the army of budding know-it-alls. I was going through a substantial stack of burned CD’s that a friend had. I stumbled across one that said, ‘Bill Withers, Still Bill,’ on it. I thought to myself, ‘who the hell is Bill Withers?’ He sounded like an old cowboy, playing country and western in the 1950’s; perhaps he was a blues man, plucking and bending those guitar strings into something that resemble a facet of people’s lives. But Bill Withers was neither, and he was all of them. Bill Withers was then, and still is today, an enigma. He was a few parts soul, some blues, even some country; but he was funky in all the right places, and he wrote songs that spoke to the most human of all parts, the heart.
In 1971, Bill Withers emerged on the scene with his debut record, Just As I Am. It was a smash hit, featuring timeless classics, like ‘Ain’t No Sunshine,’ and ‘Harlem.’ Then came 1972, time for another record, time for the old sophomore slump, right? Think again, Withers released, Still Bill, and avoided the blues of a bad second LP. It seemed Withers was in the ‘rare air’ of more than just a few good songs or only one hit record. Still Bill remains a classic to this day; it saw Bill hitting his stride. Where the first record was more Earthy, more stripped down, the second record record was funkier, with just as much soul.
The tracks seemed to tell stories like any good country song; but they groove hard; the kind of groove reserved for guys like Isaac Hayes and James Brown. There was something simple about them, but it was simplicity that was elegant, accomplishing a beautiful gracefulness that runs seamlessly throughout the record. All of this is great; all of this will no doubt make one a star, and it certainly made Bill Withers just that. What made Withers special, what catapulted him into the realm of a Legend was his ability to be genuine; his ability speak to be people; his ability to identify with the listeners, and have them believe that each song was written for them, and them alone. It is an intangible in the arsenal of every great song writer; it allowed Bill Withers to be more personal than others in the Soul sect of popular music. It is the same reason that everyone can listen to, and enjoy, Bill Withers, and records like Still Bill.
Bill Withers remains an enigma; how can History be so unkind to a true genius. Withers is one of those acts that goes largely unnoticed, even in the Music world. Although everyone has knowingly, or unknowingly heard, and probably recognizes a number of his songs. Perhaps the answer lies in Withers ability to cross so many genres; his talent for speaking to so many different kinds of listeners. Maybe that’s why Bill has faded into seeming obscurity.
But Still Bill is a record for everyone; your Soul-Seeker, your Funk-Master, the stanchest of song writing critics, or your average, every-day avid and novice listeners. And tell your friends about it; lets all make a concerted effort to put Bill Withers on the map (once again). Let’s help reignite the fire that undoubtedly burns brightly in Bill own heart, in the hearts and minds of music lovers world wide. Let’s all introduce the world to one of America’s best kept secrets, Bill Withers, the legend that no one has ever heard of.