Last month, the world lost Bill Withers. And, despite this, organizers at ArtistsCAN, an artists initiative raising funds for COVID-19 relief in Canada, thought it would be a good idea (Canadians always have the best of intentions) to stage a virtual performance, pulling together some Canadian singers––many of whom couldn’t hold a fucking candle to Bill––and get them to croak out his signature song, “Lean On Me”. In a spectacle that literally nobody asked for, people like Justin Bieber, Avril Lavigne and Michael Buble, shat all over Bill’s legacy with their warbling, auto-tuned renditions, albeit all for a good cause. And, like any respectable group of narcissists, insisted on filming the whole thing. Your move, Gal Gadot.
There are precious few artists whose work, even just in the remembrance of that work, has the ability to evoke a mood and visceral feelings of well being, comfort, nostalgia, melancholy and grace. Or maybe there was just one, and now he is gone. Bill Withers has died. Who’s voice, other than Bill’s, comes wafting into our minds at the first scent of a charcoal grill being lit on a perfect summer’s day (Lovely Day), or after an soul fortifying conversation with your favorite person (Lean on Me), or as you’re wallowing after a difficult break up (Ain’t No Sunshine) or flying high on the exhilaration of new love (Just the Two of Us)? It’s hard to imagine a world in which Bill’s music wasn’t providing the soundtrack for our lives. According to the AP, Bill died in Los Angeles from heart complications on Monday at the age of 81.