Why Bill Withers' timeless classic 'Lean On Me' is the balm the world needs right now

The legend is gone but he has given the world some sublime classics that will continue to spread joy for generations to come, 'Lean On Me' is one such gem

                            Why Bill Withers' timeless classic 'Lean On Me' is the balm the world needs right now
Bill Withers (Getty Images)

An all-time great artist from the world of music was taken away from us this week. Bill Withers, one of the most beloved singer-songwriters of his generation, died on March 30 after succumbing to heart complications at the age of 81. Known for his smooth, sublime classics that spoke to your soul, the African-American crooner wrote some of his most beloved songs during the 1970s, including the hits 'Ain't No Sunshine', 'Grandmas Hands', 'Just The Two Of Us', 'Lovely Day' and 'Lean On Me'.

ASCAP President and Chairman Paul Williams released a statement after Withers' death, which included these heartfelt lines: "Bill Withers’ songs are among the most treasured and profound in the American songbook — universal in the way they touch people all over the world, transcending genre and generation. He was a beautiful man with a stunning sense of humor and a gift for truth."

The Grammy-winning artist Lenny Kravitz said, "My soul always has and always will be full of your music," while 'Hamilton' hitmaker Lin-Manuel Miranda tweeted: "Rest In Peace, maestro Bill Withers. What a legacy." As one fan put it on Twitter, "Ain’t no sunshine when he’s gone. Rest In Peace #BillWithers." 

Bill Withers and John Legend at the 30th Annual Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony at Public Hall on April 18, 2015, in Cleveland, Ohio (Getty Images)

While Withers wrote many stunning, impactful songs, one of his all-time classics, 'Lean On Me' is actually the perfect song for the world right now.

In these uncertain times of sorrow, anxiety and frustration due to the coronavirus pandemic, people resigned to self-isolation have been forced to look inward and at each other in order to keep themselves going. On re-examining the lyrics of 'Lean On Me' in this current milieu, we can draw strength and consolation from the fact that we only need to bank on our loved ones for support and encouragement when we feel like we can't press forward.

The classic 'Lean On Me' should be adopted as an anthem for our troubled times. The poignant lines, "We all have pain / We all have sorrow / But if we are wise / We know that there's always tomorrow," also carry a prescient message of hope. As people are sequestered at home, left with no choice but to reach out to their friends and family via text messages, phone calls or video chats, they can hold these lyrics close to their heart: "Lean on me, when you're not strong / And I'll be your friend / I'll help you carry on". After all, support, love and encouragement are all a two-way street: "For it won't be long / 'Til I'm gonna need / Somebody to lean on."


Fans all over the world were realizing the same thing after Withers passed away. People were posting lyrics from the treasured song online. 

One admirer commented, "I grew up listening to this song. It’s as true today as it was then. A timeless story of the human need to connect and share the burden of life and how we respond. RIP Bill Withers. You brought beauty to our world."

Other listeners were saying, "During this 2020 coronavirus lockdown this song brought a smile to my face!"

And that's exactly why this song is perfect for the distressed citizens of the world right now. During this COVID-19 quarantine period, we all truly need someone to lean on. The line "You just call on me brother, when you need a hand," is as timely as it is timeless right now. 'Lean On Me' deserves to be an international anthem.

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