Music Legend Bill Withers Dies at 81

Bill Withers on Chris Stokes blog and Wikipedia
Bill Withers

The music industry has suffered a great loss. Singer and songwriter legend Bill Withers has died at the age of 81 in Los Angeles.

As reported by AP News:

Bill Withers, who wrote and sang a string of soulful songs in the 1970s that have stood the test of time, including “ Lean on Me, ” “Lovely Day” and “Ain’t No Sunshine,” has died from heart complications, his family said in a statement to The Associated Press. He was 81.

The three-time Grammy Award winner, who withdrew from making music in the mid-1980s, died on Monday in Los Angeles, the statement said. His death comes as the public has drawn inspiration from his music during the coronavirus pandemic, with health care workers, choirs, artists and more posting their own renditions on “Lean on Me” to help get through the difficult times.

“We are devastated by the loss of our beloved, devoted husband and father. A solitary man with a heart driven to connect to the world at large, with his poetry and music, he spoke honestly to people and connected them to each other,” the family statement read. “As private a life as he lived close to intimate family and friends, his music forever belongs to the world. In this difficult time, we pray his music offers comfort and entertainment as fans hold tight to loved ones.”

Withers’ songs during his brief career have become the soundtracks of countless engagements, weddings and backyard parties. They have powerful melodies and perfect grooves melded with a smooth voice that conveys honesty and complex emotions without vocal acrobatics.

“Lean on Me,” a paean to friendship, was performed at the inaugurations of both Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. “Ain’t No Sunshine” and “Lean on Me” are among Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

“He’s the last African-American Everyman,” musician and band leader Questlove told Rolling Stone in 2015. “Bill Withers is the closest thing black people have to a Bruce Springsteen.”

His death caused a torrent of appreciation on social media, including from former Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett, who said Withers’ music has been a cherished part of her life. “It added to my joy in the good times, and also gave me comfort and inspiration when I needed it most,” she tweeted.

Billy Dee Williams tweeted “your music cheered my heart and soothed my soul” and Chance the Rapper said Withers’ songs are “some of the best songs of all time” and “my heart really hurts for him.” Lenny Kravitz said “My soul always has and always will be full of your music.”

“We lost a giant of songwriting today,” ASCAP President and Chairman Paul Williams said in a statement. “Bill Withers’ songs are among the most treasured and profound in the American songbook — universal in the way they touch people all over the world, transcending genre and generation. He was a beautiful man with a stunning sense of humor and a gift for truth.”

Withers, who overcame a childhood stutter, was born the last of six children in the coal mining town of Slab Fork, West Virginia. After his parents divorced when he was 3, Withers was raised by his mother’s family in nearby Beckley.

He joined the Navy at 17 and spent nine years in the service as an aircraft mechanic installing toilets. After his discharge, he moved to Los Angeles, worked at an aircraft parts factory, bought a guitar at a pawn shop and recorded demos of his tunes in hopes of landing a recording contract.

In 1971, signed to Sussex Records, he put out his first album, “Just As I Am,” with the legendary Booker T. Jones at the helm. It had the hits “Grandma’s Hands” and “Ain’t No Sunshine,” which was inspired by the Jack Lemmon film “Days of Wine and Roses.” He was photographed on the cover, smiling and holding his lunch pail.

“Ain’t No Sunshine” was originally released as the B-side of his debut single, “Harlem.” But radio DJs flipped the disc and the song climbed to No. 3 on the Billboard charts and spent a total of 16 weeks in the top 40.

Withers went on to generate more hits a year later with the inspirational “Lean on Me,” the menacing “Who Is He (and What Is He to You)” and the slinky “Use Me” on his second album, “Still Bill.”

Later would come the striking “ Lovely Day,” co-written with Skip Scarborough and featuring Withers holding the word “day” for almost 19 seconds, and “Just the Two Of Us,” co-written with Ralph MacDonald and William Salter. His “Live at Carnegie Hall” in 1973 made Rolling Stone’s 50 Greatest Live Albums of All Time.

“The hardest thing in songwriting is to be simple and yet profound. And Bill seemed to understand, intrinsically and instinctively, how to do that,” Sting said in “Still Bill,” a 2010 documentary of Withers.

But Withers’ career stalled when Sussex Records went bankrupt and he was scooped up by Columbia Records. He no longer had complete control over his music and chafed when it was suggested he do an Elvis cover. His new executives found Withers difficult.

None of his Columbia albums reached the Top 40 except for 1977’s “Menagerie,” which produced “Lovely Day.” (His hit duet with Grover Washington Jr. “Just the Two of Us” was on Washington’s label). Withers’ last album was 1985′s “Watching You Watching Me.”

Though his songs often dealt with relationships, Withers also wrote ones with social commentary, including “Better Off Dead” about an alcoholic’s suicide, and “I Can’t Write Left-Handed,” about an injured Vietnam War veteran.

He was awarded Grammys as a songwriter for “Ain’t No Sunshine” in 1971 and for “Just the Two Of Us” in 1981. In 1987, Bill received his ninth Grammy nomination and third Grammy as a songwriter for the re-recording of the 1972 hit “ Lean on Me” by Club Nouveau.

He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015 by Stevie Wonder. Withers thanked his wife as well as the R&B pioneers who helped his career like Ray Jackson, Al Bell and Booker T. Jones. He also got in a few jabs at the record industry, saying A&R stood for “antagonistic and redundant.” Withers also was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2005.

His music has been covered by such artists as Barbra Streisand, Michael Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Tom Jones, Linda Ronstadt, Paul McCartney, Sting, Johnny Mathis, Aaron Neville, Al Jarreau, Mick Jagger, Nancy Wilson, Diana Ross. His music has been sampled for BlackStreet’s “No Diggity,” Will Smith’s version of “ Just the Two Of Us, ” Black Eyed Peas’ “Bridging the Gap” and Twista’s “Sunshine.” The song “Lean on Me” was the title theme of a 1989 movie starring Morgan Freeman.

His songs are often used on the big screen, including “The Hangover,” “28 Days,” “American Beauty,” “Jerry Maguire,” “Crooklyn,” “Flight,” “Beauty Shop,” “The Secret Life of Pets” and “Flight.”

“I’m not a virtuoso, but I was able to write songs that people could identify with. I don’t think I’ve done bad for a guy from Slab Fork, West Virginia,” Withers told Rolling Stone in 2015.

He is survived by his wife, Marcia, and children, Todd and Kori.

R.I.P. Bill Withers, you will be missed.

The Real Reason Justin Timberlake Left ‘N Sync

Everyone has his own version of the truth.

Ask Lance Bass, JC Chasez, Joey Fatone or Chris Kirkpatrick why Justin Timberlake left ‘N Sync at the height of the boy band’s success and you’re likely to get different answers. Timberlake’s truth is revealed in The Hollywood Reporter‘s Feb. 17 issue. “We were on a stadium tour, and I just felt like the whole thing was too big. It started as a fun snowball fight that was becoming an avalanche,” the “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” singer remembers. “And, also, I was growing out of it.”

“I felt like I cared more about the music than some of the other people in the group,” he explains. “I felt like I had other music I wanted to make and that I needed to follow my heart.”

In addition to becoming a solo artist, Timberlake found success in Hollywood with Alpha Dog, The Social Network, Friends With Benefits, Runner Runner and other films. But he doesn’t prefer one form of expression to the other. “I want to do both things. I really do idolize the golden era of Hollywood, when actors were required to sing and move. But I’m just following my gut in the decisions that I make about what I’m going to do next. I’m mostly just glad this is all working out because I really can’t do anything else,” Timberlake confesses. “I’m not gifted at anything else.”

At the moment, Timberlake is unsure whether he wants to focus on acting or music. “Going on tour is a circus. You set up the tents, you play the show, you tear the tents down and go on to the next place. It’s like Groundhog Day,” he says. “After the 125th show, you feel debilitated.”

Even so, Timberlake is excited about his new music. “It sounds more like where I’ve come from than any other music I’ve ever made,” he tells The Hollywood Reporter. “It’s Memphis. It’s Southern American music. I want to make it sound modern—at least that’s the idea right now.”

The most important thing to consider, though, is how his career will affect his family.

“Everything feels divisive to me right now,” he says. “Everything.”

George Michael Dies at 53

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Pop superstar George Michael has died peacefully at home, his publicist said.

The 53-year-old, who was set to release a documentary in 2017, rose to fame as a member of Wham!, known for their hits Club Tropicana and Last Christmas. He had a highly successful solo career which included the songs Careless Whisper, Faith, Outside and Freedom! ’90.

Michael – who was born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou – had 11 UK number ones and sold more than 100 million albums throughout a career spanning almost four decades. His most recent album, Symphonica, was released in 2014.

Thames Valley police told the BBC an ambulance attended the house in Goring, Oxfordshire, at 1.42pm.They said the death was being treated as “unexplained but not suspicious” and they would not comment further until after a postmortem.

In a statement, the star’s publicist said: “It is with great sadness that we can confirm our beloved son, brother and friend George passed away peacefully at home over the Christmas period.

“The family would ask that their privacy be respected at this difficult and emotional time. There will be no further comment at this stage.”

Michael’s manager Michael Lippman said he died from heart failure and was found “in bed, lying peacefully.” His publicist Cindi Berger said he had not been ill.

On Twitter, Andrew Ridgeley, Michael’s partner in Wham!, said he was “heartbroken at the loss of my beloved friend”.

Music Icon Prince Dead at 57

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The artist known as Prince, who pioneered “the Minneapolis sound” and took on the music industry in his fight for creative freedom, died Thursday at age 57.

“It is with profound sadness that I am confirming that the legendary, iconic performer, Prince Rogers Nelson, has died at his Paisley Park residence this morning at the age of 57,” said his publicist Yvette Noel-Schure.

Earlier Thursday, police said they were investigating a death Paisley Park studios in Chanhassen, Minnesota.

There is a massive outpouring of grief on social media. Some are saying the icon’s death is what it sounds like when doves cry, a reference to his monster hit.

The ICONIC Singer, Songwriter, Musician will be sorely missed.

Beyoncé passes Dolly Parton as the Most Grammy-Nominated Woman of All Time

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The 2015 Grammy nominations are still rolling in, but one thing is already crystal clear: Beyoncé is now the most Grammy-nominated female artist of all time.

This morning, Beyoncé earned her 47th Grammy nomination for Best Urban Contemporary (for her self-titled fifth album). Previously, at 46 nominations, Beyoncé was tied with Dolly Parton. But Bey didn’t stop there: she earned another four nominations — and she could still be nominated for another in the Album of the Year category — for a grand career total of 51 Grammy nods.

Of her previous 46 nominations, Beyoncé has won 17. Parton has won 7. Classical conductor Sir Goerg Solti holds the record with 31 Grammy wins. Other artists with more Grammy wins than Beyoncé include Alison Krause (27 wins), U2 (22 wins), Stevie Wonder (22 wins), and Kanye West (21 wins).

Still, Beyoncé is still young and could overtake them all. And something tells us that she just might do that!

New Adele Album On The Way?

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Adele has dropped her biggest hint yet on Twitter that her forthcoming third album will be called ‘25’.

The Grammy award winner, who celebrates her 26th birthday on Monday (May 5), has previously named her albums ‘19’ and ‘21’ because of the age she was when she wrote them.

It was confirmed by her publicist back in January that Adele’s third album will be released in 2014, and she’s now suggested she’ll be continuing her trend of giving her album an age-based title and calling it ‘25’.

On Sunday night, her last night as a 25-year-old, she tweeted a photo, seemingly from her bed, writing the caption: “Bye bye 25… See you again later in the year.”

However, although she wrote her last album ‘21’ gained critical acclaim for its honest and raw songwriting about the breakdown of a relationship – as heard in singles ‘Rolling In The Deep’ and ‘Someone Like You’ – we expect ‘25’ might be a more uplifting affair, given how things have taken such a happier turn in the star’s personal life.

Since writing ‘21’, the album has topped the charts in more than 26 countries, while Adele has won an incredible eight Grammys and an Academy Award, as well as being honoured with an MBE by Prince Charles.

She’s also become a mother for the first time, giving birth to her son Angelo back in October 2012 to her partner Simon Konecki, who she’s now been with for over two years.

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Justin Bieber & Selena Gomez Reunite?

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Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber can’t seem to stay away from each other. Just a few weeks after the “Heartbreaker” singer told Power 106 that he and his ex were “not talking,” the two were spotted riding Segways near Bieber’s Calabasas, Calif., home.

The exes were photographed together for the first time in months on Thursday, Jan. 2. Gomez — who recently canceled her Australian tour to “spend some time on [her]self” — donned gray leggings, a white tank, and a big black coat for the outing, while her on-again, off-again beau sported black shorts, a white T-shirt, and a baseball cap.

The 19-year-old pop star recently opened up about his relationship with the Spring Breakers actress during an interview with Power 106’s Big Boy. Asked how his song “All That Matters” came about, Bieber admitted it was inspired by his ex.

“‘All That Matters’ was written when I was in a great place in my relationship, and at that time, you know, she was all that mattered in my life,” he explained.

“I was definitely in love,” he added. “[The breakup] affected us, especially when we are in front of so many people. It’s such a public thing. It’s just hard for the both of us. But, you know, she’s a great woman. I love her to this day…I think we’re going to be the greatest friends.”

He noted, though, that they were taking a break from being in contact. “Right now, we’re taking a little time and not talking,” he told Big Boy of the 21-year-old singer, whom he dated on and off until last year.

Gomez, for her part, has said it’s been hard to close the door on her connection with the Canadian. “I’ve known him for a really long time, and we enjoy each other’s company every now and then,” she shared in August. “But I’m definitely single and enjoying being that.”

Miley Cyrus Let’s The World Know What Kind Of Guy She’s Looking For

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Three months after her confirmed split with Liam Hemsworth, the former Disney star, 21, hinted to her 15.8 million Twitter followers on Wednesday, Dec. 4 that she wanted to kick back and dress up with her significant other.

“I want a boyfriend that will wear jean on jean on jean with me,” she wrote, while sharing an image of Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake circa 2001 at the American Music Awards. Although the pop couple’s relationship ended long ago, their memorable matching denim moment lives on.

Cyrus, who released her chart-topping Bangerz album in October, has previously expressed her appreciation for pop princess Spears. On Tuesday, Cyrus wished the “Perfume” crooner a “Happy album release day”; she also gushed over the new Vegas resident in her Miley: The Movement documentary. “I’ll be a diehard fan for Britney, always,” she professed.

Despite Cyrus’ recent comments that she is having the “best time ever” post-split from Hemsworth, an insider told says that she has been exchanging “flirty” texts with her former fiance. The Hunger Games actor, 23, is attempting to reconcile with his ex. “She’s confused about how she feels,” a source told says, while “[Hemsworth] is telling friends he misses her.”

The “Wrecking Ball” singer, meanwhile, explained in the December issue of Cosmopolitan that her current focus in life is music. “I need to treat my music like a relationship — give it my time and all the attention it deserves – and that’s my main love right now,” she told the mag. “This is the best time of my life. I’m not going to look back on it and be like, ‘I wish I hadn’t been dwelling over a breakup,’ you know?”

Lady Gaga Steps Out In A Mona Lisa Bed Sheet Dress

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We may be the only ones, but we’re not surprised to see Lady Gaga wearing this giant Mona Lisa t-shirt dress.

Yes, it’s a ridiculous creation that looks more like a bed sheet with a hole in the top than an outfit, but it’s just like the pop star to think she’s fit to flaunt the fine art star. We just wonder what Leonardo da Vinci would think of his famous piece being paraded around on the Mother Monster. He might be a fan of the “Applause” singer on account of her artistic creations, but we could just as easily see him rolling his eyes at her whole charade.

The question is, where does this display rank in the long list of wild clothes? Let’s remember that Gaga was recently seen in a plaid suit with a squiggly cat tail, a mask that looked like a giant square bear and a frock made of what appeared to be dead skin.

So in the end, this stolen art style is pretty tame, even with those intense boots. So does this mean she’s finally peaked in the ridiculous fashion department? Don’t be ridiculous.

Miley Cyrus Celebrates 21st Birthday

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There might not have been any foam fingers, but Miley Cyrus’ 21st birthday weekend was still a pretty wild time. One of 2013’s most shocking stars definitely did her birthday up right and even managed to make a public appearance at the American Music Awards on Nov. 24. See pics of her bizarre performance here.

Insiders tell said that the former Disney darling’s birthday cake — which revelers noshed on during the Sunday night bash following the awards show at Beacher’s Madhouse in West Hollywood — was in the shape of a nude version of herself with pot leaves covering her privates.

A source stated that Miley seemed to be into having a great time with friends and the bash had plenty of fun favors including paper cut-outs of the singer’s face with her tongue sticking out and “I Love Miley” sunglasses.

Celebs in attendance included Kelly Osbourne, Wiz Khalifa, Amber Rose, Emma Roberts, Liam Payne and Niall Horan of One Direction, Ke$ha, and her sister Brandi Cyrus, who rocked last night’s red carpet.

For her birthday, Miley’s father, Billy Ray Cyrus, bought the singer a $24,000 customized Can-Am Spyder motorcycle with her initials all over the body.

Cyrus’ actual birthday was on Saturday, Nov. 23, but with the AMAs the following night, she seemed to keep things pretty low key before her big performance. The morning of Nov. 24, the “We Can’t Stop” singer, now officially legal, posted a seemingly naked selfie in bed followed by a series of photos of herself snuggling with her many rescue dogs.

“Crazy hair / post b-day / @amas todayyyy!,” she captioned one picture.

For the AMAs red carpet, Cyrus kept her look pretty tame in a white Versus Versace suit. But when she took to the stage to sing an emotional rendition of her hit “Wrecking Ball,” she wore a high-cut two piece covered in a cat print with massive Alexis Bittar jewelry as a giant image of a singing and eventually crying cat moved on the screen behind her.

Following the show, Cyrus snuggled up with rapper Lil Mama, who replaced Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes during TLC’s rendition of “Waterfalls.” She also cozied up to Fashion Police star Kelly Osbourne and together they went to Cyrus’ post-AMA birthday bash at Beacher’s Madhouse at The Roosevelt Hotel in Los Angeles.

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