3 Eternal Songs by Bill Withers that Have Stood the Test of Time

Bill Withers was the essence of simplicity. His songs were tight, compact, and illustrious. Like a little box that opened up into a world of color and poetry, his songs knew how to implore and explode all at the same time. And along the way, the Slab Fork, West Virginia-born songwriter and smooth-voiced performer released several songs that have since stood the test of time.

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Withers, who passed away in 2020 at the age of 81, composed songs people still put on today in order to feel something. Whether that’s joy, pain, sorrow, or the concept of community, what he did for music listeners will continue to last well into the future. Here below, we wanted to dive into three songs he wrote that remain iconic. Indeed, here below are a trio of eternal songs by the artist.

[RELATED: The 13 Best Bill Withers Quotes]

“Lovely Day” from Menagerie (1977)

While so many songs out in the world are written from a source of pain or sadness, it can be hard to write a song that is happy and yet not saccharine, cheesy, or corny. Here, on this 1977 track, Withers does the near impossible. He writes a hit that sinks into your soul and is rich with glorious positive. He sees the love of his life and he knows, in that moment, that the rest of the day (his life?) will be like sunshine incarnate. A song like this is no easy task and on it, Withers sings,

When I wake up in the morning, love
And the sunlight hurts my eyes
And something without warning, love
Bears heavy on my mind

Then I look at you
And the world’s alright with me
Just one look at you
And I know it’s gonna be
A lovely day

“Lean on Me” from Still Bill (1972)

A song of love and friendship, this is as human a tune as there is. We are all frail, all weak at times, and ultimately, we are all here on Earth to help one another, to fit together like puzzle pieces, not harm one another like blades. And that is the sentiment on Withers’ 1972 hit “Lean On Me.” On the iconic offering, Withers sings,

Sometimes in our lives
We all have pain
We all have sorrow

But if we are wise
We know that there’s always tomorrow

Lean on me
When you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend
I’ll help you carry on…

For it won’t be long
Till I’m gonna need somebody to lean on

“Ain’t No Sunshine” from Just As I Am (1971)

This is perhaps the most pained love song of all time. Sometimes, in order to get your point across as a writer, it’s best to talk about the absence of something instead of its presence. And here, Withers makes it clear just how much he loves—and needs—the other person by describing just how lost he is without her. From his debut 1971 LP Just As I Am, this song is the opposite of “Lovely Day.” Here, his love is gone and the day is not good. In fact, there is no light without her. On this forlorn track, he sings over a mellow acoustic,

Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone
It’s not warm when she’s away
Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone
And she’s always gone too long
Anytime she’s goes away

Wonder this time where she’s gone
Wonder if she’s gone to stay
Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone
And this house just ain’t no home
Anytime she goes away

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