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Bill Withers, 'Lean on Me' singer, dies at 81

Bill Withers died at age 81 of heart complications. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
Bill Withers died at age 81 of heart complications. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

April 3 (UPI) -- Bill Withers, a singer-songwriter and musician known for the songs "Lean on Me" and "Ain't No Sunshine," has died at age 81.

Withers' family said in a statement to The Independent that the Grammy-winning recording artist died from heart complications.

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The Guardian confirmed Withers' death Friday.

"We are devastated by the loss of our beloved, devoted husband and father," Withers' family said in a statement. "A solitary man with a heart driven to connect to the world at large, with his poetry and music, he spoke honestly to people and connected them to each other."

"As private a life as he lived close to intimate family and friends, his music forever belongs to the world. In this difficult time, we pray his music offers comfort and entertainment as fans hold tight to loved ones," the family added.

Withers was born in the small coal-mining town of Slab Fork, W.V., in 1938, and served nine years in the Navy as a young man. He moved to Los Angeles in 1967 to pursue music, and eventually signed with Sussex Records.

"Ain't No Sunshine" appears on Withers' debut studio album, Just As I Am, released in 1971, while "Lean on Me" appears on the singer's second album, Still Bill, released in 1972. "Ain't No Sunshine" won Withers his first Grammy for Best R&B song.

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Withers also wrote and recorded the hit songs "Use Me," "Just the Two of Us" and "Lovely Day. "Just the Two of Us" has been sampled by several other artists, including by Will Smith in his 1997 single of the same name.

Withers released his eighth album, Watching You Watching Me, in 1985, and largely retired from music after the album failed to chart.

Withers' life, music and early retirement is explored in the 2009 documentary Still Bill. The singer was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015.

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Richard "Dick" Thornburgh, former attorney general of the United States and former governor of Pennsylvania, takes a seat at the witness hearing after U.S. Chief Justice nominee Judge John Roberts testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on September 15, 2005. Thornburgh died on December 31 at age 88. Photo by Yuri Gripas/UPI | License Photo

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