Legendary Soul Singer Bill Withers Will Be Posthumously Honored With Navy Award

Bill Withers
In this June 21, 2006 photo, singer-songwriter Bill Withers poses in his office in Beverly Hills, Calif. Withers, who wrote and sang a string of soulful songs in the 1970s that have stood the test of time, including “Lean On Me,” “Lovely Day” and “Ain’t No Sunshine," died in Los Angeles from heart complications on Monday, March 30, 2020. He was 81. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon, File)

Legendary soul singer and composer Bill Withers, who recorded a string of hits after serving nine years in the Navy, has died at age 81.

Withers, a three-time Grammy award winner and 2015 inductee to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, died April 30 in Los Angeles of heart complications, his family said in a statement to the Associated Press.

Withers recorded his first album in 1971, which included the hit "Ain't No Sunshine," a soulful lament: "Ain't no sunshine when she's gone/and she's always gone too long/anytime she goes away."

Other top chart hits followed, including "Lean On Me," "Just The Two Of Us," and "Lovely Day." But he stopped recording in 1985, saying he was frustrated with the business side of music.

Related: Navy Veteran, ‘Lean on Me’ Singer Bill Withers Dies at 81

In a posted tribute, retired Rear Adm. Frank Long IV, president and CEO of the U.S. Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C., said Withers, from Slab Fork, West Virginia, joined the Navy at age 17 and served for nine years as an aviation mechanic.

"He famously and courageously overcame a childhood stutter while serving in the Navy," Long said. "There are stories about Withers going on liberty with his fellow sailors as he developed his musical talent and became interested in singing and writing songs."

"He literally touched every American's life over the last fifty years and, through his music and his example, has made our world a better place," Long said.

Withers had been selected to receive the Lone Sailor Award by the US Navy Memorial Board of Directors and he was to receive the award at the 2021 Lone Sailor Awards Dinner in Washington, D.C.

Long said he had spoken to Withers' wife and "she has agreed for us to posthumously present the Lone Sailor Award. We will do this at a time and place to be determined."

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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