Still Bill

Poet, composer, philosopher, husband, father, and former stutterer, performer Bill Withers (Ain't No Sunshine and Lean on Me) is profiled in this nicely edited documentary which reinforces our impression that this is an exemplary human being. He won a Grammy in 1981 and was inducted into the Songwriters' Hall of Fame in 2005.

Born in the tiny coal-mining town of Slab Fork, West Virginia, Withers had a childhood that shaped him: bullied by cruel classmates, supported by close chums, and cheered by his beloved grandmother (Grandma's Hands), his primary ambition was to GET OUT! To this end, he joined the Navy at age seventeen.

We follow (via snapshots and affectionate reunions) his path in the Navy ("There's a girl behind every tree in Guam!" "There's only two trees on the whole island!") to his job installing toilets in airliners for McDonnell Douglas; he was a barroom singer (but only after a couple of drinks) until he managed to launch Ain't No Sunshine.

From Withers' wry observations about his beginnings in the music business ("You need an intro here." "What's an intro?") and the brutal effects of touring ("They wanted me to wear a gold lamé suit!"), it's very clear why he turned his back on performing and turned his focus instead, on things closer to his heart, namely his marriage and his family. Looking at his remarkable résumé I suspect he has made a comfortable living from the rights to his music, as his unforgettable songs have been used in numerous movies and on countless TV shows.

This is an articulate fellow, obviously revered by his peers (Sting even adds his two-cents worth), his life well managed by his own solid values and by a wife with an MBA. His children are successful in their own right and it's clear how much love and respect there is in their lovely home.

No, I haven't told you too much. It's a pleasure to spend some time with this fine, humorous man and you will come away with a big smile, and with an even higher regard for him as a warm, kind man. The screening I attended at NW Film Forum in Seattle concluded with an invitation to tell our friends about the movie, buy the DVD or book it from Netflix. One of my JayFlix folks was in touch with Marcia Withers. The website for the DVD is: http://www.stillbillthemovie.com/home.html. I'm sorry I don't have a better link to a preview.
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