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Bill Withers: Just As I Am

Jim Santella By

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Bill Withers
Just As I Am

The 1960s and early 1970s were a time for social reform in the United States. Popular folk singers such as Bill Withers made a difference in our lives by helping to shape general attitudes and by pointing out where change was sorely needed. This need exists today with as much urgency as before. We need more social activists like Withers who can communicate with us through their songs.

In his video interview, the singer is right on target, reminding us where we stand today. Social progress? Yes, there's been some, but the road is long and hard. He speaks candidly about his humble start, the hard work that went into these best-selling songs, and the joy that he's garnered from knowing that he made a difference.

This DualDisc provides remarkable insight into the seeds that grew his music and what made it all happen. Whether we consider ourselves white-collar professionals, blue-collar workers or no-collar personalities, the music means the same to all of us. It's a wake-up call that needs to be answered.

The solemn "I'm Her Daddy," "Moanin' and Groanin'," and "In My Heart" come from acoustic roots, placing the focus on Withers' vocals, his guitar, and his foot stompin' on a wooden crate. These natural elements help to take his message to the people. The best-selling "Harlem" and "Ain't No Sunshine" include strings in their arrangements, expanding the sound considerably. "Grandma's Hands" and "Better Off Dead" come equipped with pared-down homespun messages that carry the same properties as soulful gospel or blues.

Withers communicates well with a large audience, both through his popular songs and through his vivid interview. We all need to stop and take a few lessons from this veteran singer/songwriter who's been there and who knows what it's all about.

Tracks: Harlem; Ain't No Sunshine; Grandma's Hands; Sweet Wanomi; Everybody's Talkin'; Do it Good; Hope She'll Be Happier; Let it Be; I'm Her Daddy; In My Heart; Moanin' and Groanin'; Better Off Dead (35:37).

Personnel: Bill Withers: vocals, acoustic guitar; Booker T. Jones: keyboards, guitar; Stephen Stills: guitar; Al Jackson, Jim Keltner: drums; Bobbye Hall Porter: percussion.

Program Notes: Directed by George T. Nierenberg. Special features: 20-minute video documentary with interview and full video performances of "Ain't No Sunshine," "I'm Her Daddy," and "Harlem."

Visit Bill Withers on the web.


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