Critically acclaimed singer-songwriter Bill Withers will speak on his career and craft during a public interview at 7 p.m. May 11 in the Museum Education Center at the Art Museum of West Virginia University.
A native West Virginian, Withers’ 1971 debut album broke into the Top 40 of the Billboard album charts and generated two singles, “Ain’t No Sunshine” and “Grandma’s Hands,” that reached the Top 50 of the Billboard “Hot 100” singles chart, launching more than a decade of chart and critical success. He is one of the most successful soul musicians of the 1970s and, since leaving the music industry in the early 1980s, has remained a significant influence and his music has served as a rich pool of inspiration for such successful contemporary musicians as John Legend, the Roots, Kanye West and Maroon 5.
Withers was born in Raleigh County, West Virginia in 1938, spending much of his early life in Slab Fork, a rural coal camp, and later moving to Beckley. A songwriter whose work explores the challenging daily lives of working people and offers a seemingly endless supply of hope at the same time, Withers has achieved all of the markers of success in the highly competitive international music business while remaining a model of integrity for his fellow musicians and one of the Mountain State’s most outspoken proponents.
The free public interview will be conducted by Travis Stimeling, assistant professor of music history in WVU’s School of Music.
“A critically acclaimed singer-songwriter, a spokesperson for West Virginian values and a musician whose influence is felt in a wide variety of musical styles, Withers is a significant West Virginian,” Stimeling said.
Withers will be in Morgantown to receive an Honorary Doctoral Degree from WVU’s College of Creative Arts, an award bestowed upon individuals who enrich the world through their talents, their passion and their commitment to giving back.