“What I’m listening to” is a weekly series of music that reigns at the top of my personal playlist. Music that I think is cool and deserves a mention and some extra attention.
This week: Bill Withers.
Bill is one of those guys who’s name may not instantly ring a bell with a lot of people, yet when they hear one of his many influential, heartfelt songs will trigger the same reaction: “ah.. is THAT by Bill Withers?”
Same thing happened to me actually. When I got “introduced” to him, I was actually already quite familiar with hits of him like “Just the Two of Us” and “Lovely Day,” (obviously!) however, simply didn’t yet know they were by him.
It was back in the day I was still performing as a singer-songwriter duo, together with my good friend and brutal vocalist Chris who’s voice is a mix between James Brown and more smooth-souled artists like Boyz 2 Men and the Temptations. Chris played guitar, I sat at the piano, and we sung the songs we’d written at our late night sessions.
“CC Cream” was actually a pretty cool project (albeit the name) which held on for more than two years. Chris’ taste for old school Motown music perfectly matched that of my own, while is his deeper voice combined with my own higher range made the musical match that many seemed to like. When after graduation, we stranded on some motivational issues however, we decided to put the project on an indefinite pause. Even today, after almost four years, we’re still talking about a reincarnation.
Back in the day before the breakup however, Chris and I found ourselves talking about adding a rhythm-section one day. When asking our friend Joris (who is a fantastic drummer and -nowadays- dance producer) if he could “play drums without playing drums” he took out his Cajon -in short: a box that resembles a way more acoustic, laid back version of a drum kit- and soon became part of the “band.”
After a few weeks Joris came to one of our rehearsals telling us he’d listened to some of our rehearsal recordings with his drum teacher for feedback (we were all in the same Conservatory) who really liked our music, said it reminded him a bit of “Bill Withers” and that we should maybe check him out ourselves for some inspiration.
Looking up Bill Withers and stranding on his before mentioned hits instantly conjured up that “aha” effect. However, besides a lot of his well known tunes (many that were also re-made famous by later artists’ covers like for instance Will Smiths cover version of “Just the Two of Us”) Bill appeared to have a lot more in store that fit my taste.
His acoustic-vibed groovy singer-songwriter style immediately got to me, indeed perfectly matching and mixing the styles of singer-songwriter & soul music that I was looking to master myself.
As of that day, Bill Withers earned and has always kept his place in my Masterlist. I highly recommend re-living the beauty of the first one of his tracks below, that although sweet as sugar, remains one of my favorite songs to this day. Probably because it is indeed so lovely.
“Use Me” is another favorite which demonstrates the power of groove and shows his rawer side which I also love.
Below, two of my favorite tracks of Bill, “Lovely Day” and “Just the Two of Us” that aren’t included in the full show below, but just could not be left out. Next to unmatched songwriting skills, also demonstrating Pop-Piano at its finest, both featuring the mighty Rhodes keyboard.
The rest is in that genius live recording at the BBC.
Enjoy a master singer-soulwriter, What I’m Listening To all over again this week: Bill Withers.
Just the Two of Us
-Ain’t no Sunshine, Lonely Town, Grandma’s Hands, Use Me, Let Me in Your Life, Lean on Me, Harlem-