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.
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.