Hollywood Ain't No Sunshine in Bill Withers Documentary

Still Bill, the documentary about soul legend Bill Withers (not the Tarantino movie), was released on DVD this week. The filmmakers spent eight years documenting the life of the Thoreau-quoting, piano-playing, philosophizing bluesman, who had immense success with a string of R&B and pop hits but never really trusted the music industry enough to become a megastar.

Even if you don't know Withers' name, you know his songs - "Lean on Me," "Just the Two of Us." "Lovely Day" will resonate with children of the '90s who recall PM Dawn's version, and the opening, humming hook of his touching ode "Grandma's Hands" was sampled by Blackstreet for the song "No Diggity".

"Ain't No Sunshine," an eternal favorite of Hollywood Shuffle's, was Withers' first hit. He recorded it while working as an airline mechanic for Douglas Aircraft, but refused to quit his job because he didn't want to play the "fame game." Though Withers' music has endured, he shirked from the entertainment industry for many years before the filming of the documentary started.

Withers' father died when he was a kid, and his experience of the youngest of six growing up in a coal mining town may have influenced his work ethic. One quote from the movie gives good insight into his state of mind.

"It's OK to head out for wonderful, but on your way to wonderful, you're gonna have to pass through all right. When you get to all right, take a good look around and get used to it, because that may be as far as you're gonna go."

The DVD is available on Netflix, and can be downloaded from the documentary's website. You can listen to an interview with the filmmakers on NPR.

Coming up: The Kashmere Stage Band documentary wins a major award, and a groundbreaking rock doc celebrates an anniversary.

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