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How to Be a Man With Bill Withers

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Monday, May 05, 2014

Maybe it’s not manly to say, “I’m scared.” But for Bill Withers, being a man isn’t about ignoring fear. It's about getting things done in spite of it, and knowing when to ask for help. Before he wrote some of the most memorable hits of the 70s and 80s—songs like “Ain’t No Sunshine,” and “Lean on Me”—Withers was a stuttering boy in a poor mining town.

I spoke with Withers, a fellow West Virginian, about leaving his small town, caring for his dying father, and finding the courage to make something of himself.

 

 

INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS

The true meaning of fear:

If I were gonna write anything longer than a song, I would write about fear. People get stuck in situations and they want to do something else but they’re afraid. And there’s no way not to be afraid. But to me, courage is not not being afraid; it’s, what do you do in spite of being afraid.

Losing his father early:

Well, it wasn’t like he dropped dead from a heart attack. He was sick for a while, so there’s a reality to life that you can see certain things coming, and so you prepare. You know, you miss somebody that dies, but I was prepared to go on with life. Or maybe that’s just my personality.

What he'll be remembered for:

I know what I’ll be remembered for, you know? There’s a reality to [it] — I’m sitting in my wife’s office, and her job is to license and track these songs. So I’ll be remembered for the ones that send her downstairs to the bank the most. That’s it, you know what I mean. You’re remembered for the things that made the most noise.

Bill Withers visits the USC football team in 2009 (wait for 1:18)


Trailer for the 2009 documentary "Still Bill"


Live on WNET Channel 13 in 1971

"I Am My Father's Son" with Johnny Mathis, a song Withers wrote for Bill Russell in 2013

Guests:

Bill Withers

Hosted by:

Anna Sale

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Comments [18]

Nicholas Davis from Toronto

I have been a Bill Withers fan for a long time. His music is timeless, meaningful and a fresh dose of reality. The interview with Ana Sale let me know that Bill Withers embodies all the above qualities as well. He too is timeless, meaningful and a fresh dose of reality. And thanks for the link to the song he wrote for Bill Russell. It was a beautiful tribute to a father.

Jun. 20 2014 12:08 PM
Nicholas Davis from Toronto

I have been a Bill Withers fan for a long time. His music is timeless, meaningful and a fresh dose of reality. The interview with Ana Sale let me know that Bill Withers embodies all the above qualities as well. He too is timeless, meaningful and a fresh dose of reality. And thanks for the link to the song he wrote for Bill Russell. It was a beautiful tribute to a father.

Jun. 20 2014 12:07 PM
Lee Gelber from Astoria

Anna Sale this series reinforces my opinion that you are a superb broadcast journalist. Thank you

Jun. 12 2014 04:14 PM
doug from Corrales, NM

Radio life storytelling doesn't get any better than the Bill Withers program. Just listened for the second time to remind myself what i learned and was moved by the first delightful time through. This and several other segments make me so grateful you have started this show. i am busy cultural surfing with podcasts and WNYC as key sources. Thanks for the quality of the goods in the pipeline. Keep 'em coming

Jun. 10 2014 02:23 PM
Adina from Toronto

I just listened to this podcast on the subway and all the riders must have thought I was crazy. I smiled the whole 22 minutes and laughed out loud in some parts. Bill Withers knows how to be a man. And it comes from a humble place. I could have listened to that episode for another three hours.
This one isn't getting deleted from my iPhone. I will be playing for my husband, my sister, my mom...

Jun. 06 2014 09:25 AM
Cathy Scholtens from Stevensville MT

Oh my, another quality podcast from the great WNYC! Listetned this morning and just couldn't get over how interesting Bill Withers is. Thanks to Anna Sale for a great interview! The videos are pretty fun too!

May. 24 2014 01:55 PM
Jill Davidson

Thanks so much for this. I am so grateful to have been able to spend time, via your podcast, with Bill Withers. He's an inspiration to lead a thoughtful, interesting, and honorable life.

May. 21 2014 10:15 PM
Mike Ross from Wild

Wow! And did I say wow! First of your podcasts I have listened to and Wow! Mr. Withers, a Mountaineer, like myself, is one of our country's great philosophers.Wisdom rolls from this man's tongue like rain. Like the documentary " Still Bill" listening brought a tear of joy and pride to my eyes.

May. 21 2014 09:10 PM
ben

I would like to submit my nomination for Mr. Withers as most interesting man alive. What poise and humor and intelligence.
Thank you! You obviously have a real talent for endearing yourself to your subjects.
Keep up the good work.

May. 19 2014 09:05 PM
FRK

yeah Anna, I like what moves you.

May. 15 2014 10:14 PM
Nora from Philadelphia

From one West Virginian to another, I was so tickled to listen to your first episode and to find that it featured you AND WV native Bill Withers. Congratulations on this fantastic new venture.

May. 15 2014 12:58 PM
John Yearley

Fantastic show! I just listened to all 3 and don't know which one I like the most. Going to go home and subscribe tonight. Keep up the good work!

May. 14 2014 02:17 PM
Bryan from Pittsburgh, PA

I just wanted to say that I've listened to everyone of your podcasts and they are fantastic. Bill Withers is clearly an amazingly talented person and top of that he seems like such a nice guy. Great interview and keep up the good work.

May. 14 2014 09:42 AM
Allison Dailey

What an amazing interview with Bill Withers!!! Unforgettable

May. 13 2014 07:38 PM
blanchedeveraux

I just heard about this podcast on TAL and based on this episode I am very excited. I love Bill Withers. I look forward to more shows and wish you much success Anna

May. 13 2014 12:14 PM
Kurt

Great podcast
Dieing for you come out with more material

May. 12 2014 05:16 PM
fuva from harlemworld

Oh, Bill! Thanks soooo much for your body of work. ** And lemme give a special shout out to the song "Harlem". ;-) **

May. 10 2014 09:44 PM
Busayo Olupona

Thank you so much for this. Bill is incredible man. I loved the documentary about him and his world view is just so refreshing. Would have wanted to know more about why he hasnt had an album in forever.

May. 09 2014 08:42 AM

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