Soul singer Bill Withers dies aged 81

Bill Withers speaks onstage at Reel To Reel: Chuck Berry: Brown Eyed Handsome Man at the GRAMMY Museum on February 24, 2020. (Rebecca Sapp/Getty Images for The Recording Academy )

US soul singer Bill Withers has died aged 81 of heart complications, according to a statement from his family.

The influential musician wrote Lean on Me, Ain’t No Sunshine and Lovely Day.

The family statement reads: “We are devastated by the loss of our beloved, devoted husband and father. A solitary man with a heart driven to connect to the world at large, with his poetry and music, he spoke honestly to people and connected them to each other.

“As private a life as he lived close to intimate family and friends, his music forever belongs to the world. In this difficult time, we pray his music offers comfort and entertainment as fans hold tight to loved ones.”

The American singer, guitarist and songwriter Bill Withers on stage at Music Festival in Cannes in 1973. The artist was born in Slab Fork, West Virginia, on 4th July 1938. | usage worldwide (Photo by Goebel/picture alliance via Getty Images)

“I’m not a virtuoso, but I was able to write songs that people could identify with. I don’t think I’ve done bad for a guy from Slab Fork, West Virginia,” Withers told Rolling Stone in 2015.

Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda was among those of the showbusiness world paying tribute to Withers, calling him “maestro”.

Chance The Rapper called him “the greatest”.

Withers won three Grammy Awards during his lifetime from seven nominations. His first studio album Just As I Man was released in 1971. It yielded the singles Ain't No Sunshine and Grandma's Hands.

Aint No Sunshine won a Grammy Award for Best R&B Song in 1972 and sold over one million copies.

American singer and song writer Bill Withers at Munich, Germany 1989. (Fryderyk Gabowicz/picture alliance via Getty Images)

His second album Still Bill was released later that same year. The single Lean on Me, from that album, was Withers’s second gold single with confirmed sales in excess of three million.

He released eight studio albums, one live album, and number of compilations over the years. After his 1985 album Watching You Watching Me failed to chart, he walked away from the music industry.

Withers married actress Denise Nicholas in 1973 and they divorced in 1974. In 1976, Withers married Marcia Johnson, and they had two children Todd and Kori.

In 2015 he was inducted into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.