Bill Withers died on Monday from heart complications, his family said to the Associated Press.
In a statement, they described him as a “solitary man with a heart driven to connect to the world.”
“He spoke honestly to people and connected them to each other.”
Withers was known for his smooth vocals and soul music. He wrote many hit songs throughout the 70s including "Ain't No Sunshine," "Just The Two Of Us," "Lean On Me" and "Lovely Day."
He stopped recording music in 1985 according to the BBC, though his songs were covered by many and had a big influence on R&B as well as hip-hop.
“We are devastated by the loss of our beloved, devoted husband and father,” his family said.
“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.”
His song, "Lean On Me" has become associated with the coronavirus pandemic recently as people have been sharing recordings of themselves singing the song to show support for health workers and people working in other essential services.
Withers was born in 1938 and was the youngest in his family of six kids. His mother and grandmother raised him after his father died when he was young.
He had a late start in the music industry at the age of 29, after being in the Navy for 9 years.
During his time between shifts—working at the Boeing aircraft company—Withers taught himself guitar. He then used the money he made to fund studio sessions in LA.
“I figured out that you didn't need to be a virtuoso to accompany yourself,” he said in 2015, when speaking with Rolling Stone magazine.
In 1970, he made his first album—Just As I Am. The album included the songs "Ain’t No Sunshine" and "Grandma’s Hands." He later won a Grammy award for "Ain’t No Sunshine."
He then came out with Lean On Me in 1972. The song was based on Withers' experiences growing up in a coal mining town in West Virginia.
He quit his music career shortly after releasing "Just The Two Of Us," though he did some touring in the 90s with Grover Washington Jr.
Withers didn’t keep tabs on his music career much when it was over.
In 2015, he said, “These days, I wouldn't know a pop chart from a Pop-Tart.”