Well today is Independence Day. It's also the birthday of one of the most independent musical minds I know of. And that's Mr. Bill Withers. Coming directly out of a coal mining town with a completely working class background, Withers literally went from a job with Douglas Aircraft to recording his first album. Recently I viewed a DVD about his life and career called "Still Bill". While he is very much an unsung figure in the musical world he has also amassed a catalog of songs that is nearly awe inspiring if you really look at it.
A man who is humble yet confident,good natured yet reflective Withers overcame not only his back round but also difficulties with stuttering to become one of the most profound songwriters of his day. He had many excellent hits such as "Ain't No Sunshine","Use Me",Grandma's Hands" and later "Just The Two Of Us" but he's perhaps best known for "Lean On Me". Again he's defying convention without being overly conscious;eschewing the typical romantic song format in writing a song about friendship many people can somehow relate to.
Considering his creative stance in refusing to release any material due to his commitment to creative musical vision as opposed to popular trends,as well as his being able to take what might be viewed as a disability (his stuttering) and turning it very much to his advantage Withers is,to me anyway,one of the great American songwriters of the last half century. And I have the feelings his songs will he sung everywhere from school choruses to political protest rallies right along with the music of Bob Dylan,The Beatles and Stevie Wonder. Happy birthday Bill!