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Still Bill by Bill Withers

Tom Radigan

11 Jul 2022

For Withers second album "Still Bill" which was released in 1972 showed Withers wide collections of songs. Like the first album, the song had a mix of interesting topics and sophisticated lyrics. Withers wrote all the songs on the album and collaborated with Stanley McKenny on “Who Is He (And What Is He to You)?” He also collaborated with guitar player Benorce Blackmon on “Another Day to Run.” The personnel on this album, like the first, has a mix of talented musicians. Musicians include multi-instrumentalist Ray Jackson on guitar, piano, horn and string arrangements. Also on this album is Benorce Blackman on guitar, Melvin Dunlap on bass, James Gadson on drums. The album produced two commercial hits which were “Lean on Me” and “Use Me.”

The first track on this album is “Lonely Town, Lonely Street.” It is a great opener. It has such a funky vibe with Withers heavy vocals carrying this song. Once you listen to it, it’s hard to believe Wither just started in the music business a few years back and wasn’t born gifted with the craft or specially trained. He is able to be a role model for anybody who desires to be a musician or singer. He represents that anybody can be who they want to be; they just have to work for it. When I hear this song I just can’t stop thinking how soulful he really is.

His music really made an impact and could touch people deeply especially with a song like "Lean On Me" that happens to be an uplifting song about friendship. When you hear the song it really puts you in a calm state of mind and just gives you peace. The opening lyrics really focus on how there are times in our life where we need that support or a shoulder to cry on. I think this song also is very useful and relevant in this day and age. It really does give a sense of hope to someone that lets them know it’s going to be ok. This song brings mixed emotions every time I listen to it. Sometimes I smile and at times it makes me want to cry due to how beautiful the message is which shows you how powerful music really is.

This album has a lot of funk on it. One of my favorite funk tunes would be “Use Me” which I stated was a commercial hit for the album. Withers has an interesting way of approaching songs. His storytelling is simple and is easy for a listener to understand and can also be attached to the words that he is singing. In this song the singer focuses on a woman he is seeing who all his friends and family believe is just using him but he doesn’t care because as he says in the outro “It ain’t to bad that you using me because I sure am using you to do the things you do” I think what I love about this song is that it focuses on relationships where both partners are using the other for a specific reason. Sometimes it’s money and sometimes it can be due to sex. As much as I love the studio version of this song I also have a huge appreciation towards the live version that is on his “Live at Carnegie Hall” album.

Another funky tune on this album would be the song “Kissing My Love'' which has a solid drum solo starting it off. And then the funk emerges with the other instruments kicking in just makes this song a complete head bop. I love Withers' use of repetition in songs. In this case I like the use of the line “Put your foot on the rock” which really makes you want to shake your leg. This song is a good example of Withers's positive songs.

What song is an interesting twist in the mood of the melody is the slow blues number “I Don't Want You On My Mind.” This is similar to his first album where a happy go lucky song plays and for this album it would be "Kissing My Love" to a few tracks later to dark eerie songs like “I Don’t Want You on My Mind” or “Who Is He (And What Is He to You).”

“I Don’t Want You On My Mind” has a Sonny Boy Williamson or Lonnie Johnson vibe to it. The guitar work is what makes the song sound like an old blues song but also is able to put a 70’s groove that can make it a memorable aspect to the listener.

A song like “I Don’t Know” is a sweet love song that brings so much emotion but what I love about this song is that it’s about not knowing for sure how to define love to an individual. This song just has a positive approach on love and can give an individual a happy feeling when listening to this song to someone and I like how it focuses on just being able to not really know the intense feeling of love. I like the line delivery of “you got me feeling like a young man" just captures that intensity in romance and how the love for another can make us feel invincible but sometimes we just don’t know the answer or the outcome in a relationship.

A song that sticks out to me on this album is “Another Day to Run.” What I like about this song is how it focuses on insecurities and is based on a feeling a lot of people have probably felt. This focuses on feeling lost with no direction. I mean I definitely feel I can relate to this song as I'm sure someone reading this can too. It focuses on mixed emotions from an individual like how people deal with rejection but also focuses on drugs and poverty. It’s a song that focuses on how we as people can hide from our problems but the issue is they will come back and haunt us eventually.

Withers really does represent real life struggles that I’m sure he had. It’s so interesting to me how a former vet and assemblyman was able to have enough talent and a voice that needed to be heard to the public.

Still Bill by Bill Withers