Singer-songwriter and Navy veteran Bill Withers passed away on March 30, 2020, from heart complications at age 81. The U.S. Navy Memorial announced that Withers will be honored posthumously with the Lone Sailor Award.
Withers, who is best known for his hits, “Lean on Me,” “Ain’t No Sunshine,” and “Just the Two of Us,” had enlisted in the Navy at age 17 in 1955. He served as an Aviation Mechanic for nine years.
#RIP sInger-songwriter Bill Withers who passed away on Monday at age 81. Withers served in the Navy for 9 years as an Aviation Boatswain’s Mate before achieving international acclaim for songs such as “Ain’t No Sunshine”, “Just the Two of Us” and “Lean on Me”. pic.twitter.com/6X9FUtMX9f
— U.S. Naval Institute (@NavalInstitute) April 3, 2020
The Lone Sailor Award will be presented at the 2021 Lone Sailor Awards Dinner in Washington, DC. The award is “given to sea service veterans who have excelled with distinction in their respective careers during or after their service.”
Rear Admiral Frank Thorp, President and CEO of the Navy Memorial said, “Bill Withers exemplifies the men and women of our sea services who develop their character and talents while serving in the military and go on to live lives of consequence. Bill Withers has literally touched every American’s life over the last fifty years and, through his music and his example, has made our world a better place.”
While Withers was serving in the Navy, he discovered and established his musical gift in both writing and singing.
After his service, he moved to Los Angeles and took a job at an aircraft parts factory. He later picked up a used guitar at a local pawn shop and began recording demos.
His dream was to get a recording contract, and he made it come true.
He recorded his debut “Just As I Am” in 1971 at the age of 33, according to NPR.
Withers went on to win three Grammy Awards and was nominated for four more. In 2015, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Withers was the youngest of six children, born in Slab Fork, West Virginia on July 4, 1938 to William Harrison Withers Sr and his wife, Mattie.
Withers is survived by his wife, Marcia, who he married in 1976 and their two children, Todd and Kori.