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He Gave Us a Virus 'Anthem.' Now He's Gone

Soul singer Bill Withers of 'Lean on Me' fame was 81
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 3, 2020 10:38 AM CDT

(Newser) – Legendary soul singer Bill Withers died of heart complications this week at age 81, reports the AP. The three-time Grammy winner, known for 1970s classics like "Lean On Me," "Ain't No Sunshine," "Lovely Day," and "Just the Two of Us," was "a solitary man with a heart driven to connect to the world at large," his wife, Marcia Johnson, and two children, Todd and Kori, say in a statement. Indeed, health care workers have been sharing their own renditions of "Lean On Me" in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Rolling Stone says the song has emerged "as an anthem of hope and solidarity."

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"As private a life as he lived close to intimate family and friends, his music forever belongs to the world," says the family statement. "We pray his music offers comfort and entertainment as fans hold tight to loved ones." Everyone from Lin-Manuel Miranda to Chance the Rapper to Jennifer Hudson have paid tribute to Withers, per the Guardian. Born in West Virginia in 1938, he moved to Los Angeles in 1967, finding a job making toilet seats while recording demos at night, the outlet reports. He retired from music in the mid-1980s. (Read more obituary stories.)

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