Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Bill Withers posing for a portrait around 1973.
Bill Withers posing for a portrait around 1973. Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
When Bill Withers burst onto the music scene in the early 1970s, this former coal country scion and aerospace worker suddenly became the premier singer-songwriter working across R&B, folk and rock styles. As his new The Complete Sussex and Columbia Masters box sets makes clear, his best songs were marvelously efficient in affect — direct and earnest — but never simplistic in content. He could find a hundred ways to lyrically express "I love you" without falling back on cliche. No wonder that so many of his songs became the favorites of other singers, looking to adapt some of his magic and make it their own.