CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – West Virginia native Bill Withers wrote and performed some of the most iconic songs of the 70s and early 80s.
Born in Slab Fork and raised in Beckley, Withers went on to win three Grammy awards and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015.
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice called Withers an “absolute legend” during his Friday afternoon coronavirus virtual news conference.
“We really recognize the contributions that he made to West Virginia and made to this nation and to the world and he’ll surely be missed so let’s surely keep him and all of his loved ones in our thoughts and prayers,” Justice said.
Withers was also in the very first class of inductees into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame in 2007.
“He was a remarkable man in many ways. Obviously his music speaks for itself,” said West Virginia Music Hall of Fame founder Michael Lipton.
He remembers contacting withers about the honor.
“We told him what it was and I said would you be willing to come here and accept this award and he said I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Lipton said.
The West Virginia Music Hall of Fame holds its induction ceremonies at the West Virginia Culture Center in Charleston.
Lipton said Withers attended a number of them. The last one was in 2015 and it turned out to be a very memorable one.
Lipton said they asked Withers to play piano on a group rendition of “Lean on Me” for the finale of the show.
“He said I might have to practice a little but yeah I’ll do it and it was kind of a heavy moment, just like now, now it’s a heavy moment,” Lipton said.
“Lean on Me” was Withers’ only number one song.
The song has become an inspirational anthem over the past few weeks for a world dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.