If you are of a certain age, you know Bill Withers and his soulful Lean On Me. This anthem of love, community, friendship, and support could be heard everywhere in the 1970s.
“Sometimes in our lives we all have pain
We all have sorrow
But if we are wise
We know that there’s always tomorrow
Lean on me, when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend
I’ll help you carry on
For it won’t be long
‘Til I’m gonna need
Somebody to lean on”
Here in 2020, the song has helped many people get through these first few weeks of the Coronavirus crisis. Just this morning, I received the monthly e-newsletter Culture School from Amira El-Gawly at Manifesta, where she brought the song back into my consciousness when she wrote:
“Bill Withers knew what he was talking about… back in 1972. I’ve loved the song “Lean On Me” since I was a little girl — it spoke of something I had a sense for but didn’t fully understand as a child. And today it hit me. This is what Bill has been encouraging us to do…Maybe we’ll listen harder now.
The world is in crisis. Our lives have been turned upside down. Our physical worlds are limited. Our emotional worlds are experiencing turbulence. Many of our businesses and organizations are suffering. And perhaps the greatest pain is the deepening loneliness many feel….
Friends, our greatest desire isn’t to produce — it is to be known and loved….
We are in a new era. A terrible one, a beautiful one. Creating a new way of life.
My hope is that we will lean into days worth living. Living that is relational at heart. Living that centers around caring for yourself, your family, your team, your community. And maybe this… this is how we were made to live.”
Today his family announced that Bill Withers passed away on Monday at age 85 from heart complications. As the AP noted, “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 of “Lean on Me” to help get through the difficult times.”
“You just call on me, brother, when you need a hand
We all need somebody to lean on.
I just might have a problem that you’ll understand,
We all need somebody to lean on.”
Withers also wrote the classic Ain’t No Sunshine. Today, with Bill Withers passing, it would be understandable to say there’s a little less sunshine in the world, but that would miss his legacy of music that he left for all of us to lean on.
Rest in peace, Bill Withers.
More to come…