Ain’t No Sunshine Any More

His greatest songs are like small coins in your trouser pocket. Although we sometimes might forget that they are there, we carry them around with us all the time. The American musician Bill Withers knew what an astonishingly valuable currency he had brought into circulation with Ain’t No Sunshine, Lovely Day and Lean On Me. He came from a coal-mining family in West Virginia and was always proud of his origins. “Luck”, he once said (quoting Seneca), is “the crossroads of preparation and opportunity”. For him, luck came relatively late in life, in 1971 with his debut album Just As I Am – he was 32 years old.

He was the least conspicuous among all the big artists involved in the black Civil Rights Movement. No glamour, no eroticism. Instead he created songs somewhere between folk and soul, with which he knew he could stir the emotions of “rednecks just as much as black cotton pickers in the South”. And that, although he was alien to the idea of genius and virtuosity: “I never learnt music. I simply made it.” Bill Withers died at the age of 81 on 30 March 2020 in Los Angeles.

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