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Any Major Bill Withers Songbook

With Bill Withers, a giant of soul has left us, at the age of 81. He died on March 30, but his death was reported only today, April 3.

Withers was a superb songwriter — Lovely Day, Ain’t No Sunshine, Lean On Me, Use Me, Grandma’s Hands, Who Is He (And Who Is He To You) and so on are stone-cold soul classics. These and others are perfectly rendered in Withers hands, in their studio versions and often more so in their live performances. But their simplicity allowed other artists great freedom of reinterpretation, especially the slower numbers.

Other than the much-violated Lean On Me, few mediocre acts dared to take on a Withers track. If you dared to, better be prepared to match Withers’ artistry.

Al Jarreau, a tremendous interpreter of other people’s songs, recorded a whole album of Withers songs in 1979. Isaac Hayes included a couple of Withers songs in his live sets, turning Wither’s brief and simple Ain’t No Sunshine into a mini-jazz opera on his Live At The Sahara Tahoe album. Likewise, in this set, The Temptations remold the song, without compromising its integrity.

In my mind, Bill Withers and Gil Scott-Heron were comrades in the trenches. Both were men with something to say  — just hear Withers’ anti-war anthem I Can’t Write Left Handed — and the capacity to do so poetically, and then they set these great lyrics to engaging music. Bill and Gil weren’t the only ones, of course, but they were of a rare breed. Happily, Gil Scott-Heron recorded a Withers track, which features here.

In this present collection, no singer is a mug — there are no pointless covers here. Whether they manage to justice to the originals, you may decide.

Rest in Peace, Bill Withers. May you be reunited with Grandma.

As ever, this mix fits on a standard CD-R, and includes home-made covers, plus a couple of bonus tracks. PW in comments.

1. Georgie Fame – Lovely Day (1979)
2. Al Green – Lean On Me (1984)
3. Gil Scott-Heron – Grandma’s Hands (1982)
4. Marlena Shaw – Just The Two Of Us (2004)
5. Gladys Knight & The Pips – Who Is She (And What Is She To You) (1973)
6. The Temptations – Ain’t No Sunshine (1972)
7. Scott Walker – Use Me (1973)
8. The 5th Dimension – Harlem (1974)
9. Aretha Franklin – Let Me In Your Life (1974)
10. Al Jarreau – Kissing My Love (1979)
11. Elkie Brooks – Paint Your Pretty Picture (1980)
12. Herb Alpert – Love Is (1979)
13. Carolyn Franklin – Sweet Naomi (1973)
14. Carmen McRae – I Wish You Well (1976)
15. Nancy Wilson – Hello Like Before (1997)
16. John Legend & The Roots – I Can’t Write Left Handed (2010)

GET IT! or HERE!

Previous Songbooks:
Ashford & Simpson
Bob Dylan Volumes 1-5
Bruce Springsteen
Burt Bacharach & Hal David
Burt Bacharach’s Lesser-Known Songbook
Chuck Berry
Cole Porter
Jimmy Webb Vol. 1
Jimmy Webb Vol. 2
Leonard Cohen
Rod Temperton
Steely Dan

 

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  1. halfhearteddude
    April 3rd, 2020 at 23:24 | #1

    PW = amdwhah

  2. Andy Crews
    April 4th, 2020 at 01:06 | #2

    “I loved that old lady. I LOVED that old lady.” – Bill Withers live at Carnegie Hall.

  3. April 4th, 2020 at 02:37 | #3

    I was surprised and happy to see another post so soon, but saddened when I read it. This is a great mix, thank you

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