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Bill Withers, Jr.

Honorary Doctorate of Letters

Bill Withers with an Honorary Doctorate of Musical Letters for his achievement of national preeminence in the field.

Bill Withers is one of America’s premier singer/songwriters. Combining soulful warmth, a folksy, genuine feel, and an immediately recognizable voice, Withers has sung his way into the hearts of millions.

Withers attributes this to his own uniquely American story: as he describes it, a rural childhood and an urban-international adulthood. He was born in Slabfork, West Virginia, the youngest of six children in a small coal-mining town. Withers' father, a miner, died when Withers was 13. Just four years later, Withers enlisted in the United States Navy. He served his country for 9 years, during which time he traveled throughout Asia and was inspired to try his hand at singing. After his discharge from the military, Withers moved to Los Angeles and recorded demos in hopes of landing a recording contract.

In 1971, Withers signed to Sussex Records. He went on to write hits such as “Ain’t No Sunshine,” “Lovely Day,” “Just the Two of Us” and “Lean on Me.” His songs have been covered by many other artists, including such luminaries as Barbra Streisand, Michael Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Maroon 5, Paul McCartney, Sting and Diana Ross. They have also been featured in numerous feature films and major network television shows.

Withers was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2005 and into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (by Stevie Wonder and John Legend) in 2015. Additional honors include multiple Million-aires citations from Broadcast Music Incorporated (BMI), induction into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame, and a Clio Award for songwriting and production in advertising. The Complete Sussex & Columbia Albums Collection, representing Withers' nine full-length albums, received a 2014 Grammy Award for Best Historical Recording.

Forty six years since his debut, Bill Withers’ songs still resonate as vibrant touchstones in the American musical cannon. Withers articulates his philosophy clearly: “I write and sing about whatever I am able to understand and feel. I feel that it is healthier to look out at the world through a window than through a mirror. Otherwise, all you see is yourself and whatever is behind you.”