Entertainment behind the scenes
If you never saw Bill Withers perform during his heyday in the 1970s, you’re out of luck. The 70-year-old singer/songwriter of such soul standards as “Lean on Me” and “Ain’t No Sunshine” says he has no desire to mount a late-era comeback because he gets more applause now than when he was on stage.
“When I was actually out there, I played small places, I never drew that many people, I didn’t get any applause,” he said during a chat this week with a few journalists. “The kind of stuff that I did, actually, it took about 30 years for it to sink in. But when I was current, I wasn’t that big a deal. So I learned my lesson. If I stay at home, things go well for me. I don’t want to show up and screw it up.”
Withers and his statuesque singer/songwriter daughter Kori were attending a book party in downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday for Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, and he indeed garnered a lot of applause and adoration. Maybe he has a point. So what does he do all day?
“I’m having fun, working with my daughter,” he said. “I’m just kinda like the band-dad. I let ‘em use my house, and clean up after ‘em sometimes, and speak ill of ‘em when they’re gone.”
Another reason why Withers does not miss the spotlight is that he was late getting to it in the first place. He worked for nine years as an aircraft mechanic in the U.S. Navy, and spent the second half of the 1960s struggling to land a record deal in Los Angeles. He finally released his first album in ’71, “Just As I Am,” and won a songwriting Grammy for the hit single “Ain’t No Sunshine.”
Animal rights group PETA has come up with a novel way of encouraging a major music star to give up fur. In a letter written last week, PETA president Ingrid Newkirk offered to pay Aretha Franklin’s back taxes and fees on her Detroit mansion in return for going fur-free. The soul legend owes $19,192 on the property and could face foreclosure proceedings, a county official said earlier this month.
Newkirk’s letter says animals trapped in the wild can suffer for days, and die in a number of grisly ways on their way to becoming coats and other fashion acccesories.