BILL WITHERS / Bill Withers Mixtape
Bill Withers is gifted. Even a cursory hearing of his music will cause one to pause, admire, and probably sing along as the deceptively simple statements encapsulate a cornucopia of life experiences: the lonesome pain, the exquisite sharing, the celebratory triumphs, and of course, also the unfortunate stumbles and setbacks, sometimes all contradictorily wrapped up in one ex-lover who ecstatically drove you bananas. It’s hard to find new ways to write about the two us. The clarity of mind one experiences when the sunlight of a deeply moving experience hurts one’s eye. That’s the aural brush with which Bill Withers paints as he intimately, albeit pithily, describes two hearts looking and being looked at. Sometimes he even sounds country, meaning unsophisticated, i.e. saying what is just the way it is without the adornment of pretty sentiments, sans effusive complements or even feel-good phrases of praise. No. Bill offers just the simple truth, all while avoiding the drag of worn-out lover’s lines. While others brag about expensive champagne, Bill tells us candidly sometimes a simple glass of water is what we really need to cool us down. As we listen to Bill declaiming “Two people getting done, trying to figure who’s doing who?” we look over our shoulders to see if anyone is looking at us looking at ourselves embarrassed about all the personal quagmires we’ve stomped through. Moreover, it’s not just the songwriting craft, Bill also has a rough-hewn voice that is beautiful in its naked sincerity. His is what you might more likely hear down to the mechanic’s shop than on a concert stage—a working man tussling with a broken motor or hacking at the stubborn shrubbery in the back yard. Hey, hand me that song about sunshine, the one with the forty-seven “I knows.” It takes a brave man to admit his weaknesses to a person he really wants to impress. That is Bill Withers’ secret ingredient. It’s not just that his songwriting is direct and to the point. The really distinguishing factor is that most of his songs deal with contradictions, whether begging not to be pushed away or bemoaning why he’s got to go, underlying every declaration is an opposite reality that makes his songs feel stronger than they would seem if they were just a few words scribbled on a page. Who knows, maybe it’s the halting request to pretend that everything is okay just for the moment, this moment of a chance encounter while acknowledging that yesterday didn’t work and tomorrow he will be gone. Or like he admits with a wry smile as he softly says hello, “I never would have come here if I’d have known you would be here.” Oh how too often we find ourselves doing something, going somewhere we never would have had we known. But that is life, we can never know the totality of life experiences in advance. You can hear it in the way Bill bears down on syllables of intense expressions or backs off to near whispers expressive of vulnerability. Oh, the timeless appeal of raw honesty, especially in the midst of contradictions and inadequacy. Which is indicative of why Bill Withers walked away from the recording business when the suits tried to get him to be something other than he was. All the money in the world wasn’t worth faking it or even fooling oneself about who one really is and what one really wants to achieve in life. So anyway, here is our first full-length Bill Withers Mixtape. We have done considerations of particular Bill Withers songs before and of course featured him amid a number of our compilations, but this is the first straight up, full length exploration of master songwriter Bill Withers. Need I say enjoy? —Kalamu ya Salaam Bill Withers Mixtape Playlist 01 “I'm Her Daddy” – Just As I Am ‘Justments 02 “You” 03 “Ruby Lee ” 04 “Can We Pretend” Live At Carnegie Hall 05 “Use Me” 06 “Lean On Me” 07 “Ain't No Sunshine” 08 “Let Me In Your Life” 09 “Hope She'll Be Happier” 10 “Grandma's Hands” 11 “World Keeps Going Around” 12 “Harlem/Cold Baloney” Making Music 13 “She's Lonely ” 14 “Paint Your Pretty Picture” 15 “Hello Like Before ” Menagerie 16 “Lovely Day” 17 “Let Me Be The One You Need” 18 “I Want To Spend The Night” Still Bill 19 “I Don't Know ” 20 “Kissing My Love” 21 “Just The Two Of Us” – Winelight 22 “Watching You Watching Me” – The Ultimate Bill Withers Collection
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