As part of the Rock Hall's Celebration Day, the Museum will screen the Bill Withers documentary, Still Bill, at 5pm ET. In this post, the film's co-director (along with Damani Baker) Alex Vlack, shares how he found Bill Withers, his hero, and transformed the experience into a movie.
Everyone who's ever turned on the radio, walked into a restaurant, been in a bar, lived in this country for more than a few days knows Bill Withers' biggest songs. But most people don't know his name, and most people don't know most of his music.
I didn't really discover it until college, when my friend Jon Fine turned me on to Still Bill, Withers' second record. We listened to it on cassette over and over and over. I'd grown up on blues and jazz and rock, and thought I was pretty well-versed – when you're 18 years old, you can think of yourself as a lot of things! – so how could an album like this have slipped past me? It was, simply, the best album I'd ever heard. Fine and I started a band, and one of the first things we did was ...
“Ain’t No Sunshine”
The song that set the framework for the Bill Withers sound with its sparse arrangement, direct, no-frills lyric and in-the-pocket groove.
“I was one of those kids who was smaller than all the girls. I stuttered. I had asthma. So I had some issues," recalled Bill Withers. "My grandmother was that one person who would always say that I was going to be OK. … When you're a weaker kid, whoever champions you becomes very important to you."
“Who Is He(and What is He to You?)”
Just the right undertone of menace and an unrelenting repeated funky riff drives this testament of a jealous lover home.
“Lean on Me”
Bill Withers’ first Number One hit took us to church. "It's a rural song that translates across demographic lines,” Withers recalled. “My experience was, there were people who were that way. They would help you out. Even in the rural South, there were people who would help you out even across racial lines. Somebody who would probably stand in a mob that might lynch you if you pissed them off, would help you out in another way."
“I Can’t Write ...
“Baby Don’t Do It”
From the first rolling piano chords through the soaring vocals and swinging horn arrangement, this first “5” Royales appearance on the charts signals that they are here to rock and take no prisoners.
“Help Me Somebody”
Starting out as a gospel-tinged slow drag, the “5” Royales throw a double-time curve into the bridge of this song, their second big hit.
“Monkey Hips and Rice”
This song dares you keep your seat, tugging you up to dance to its infectious beat and the compelling interplay between vocal and saxophone.
“When I Get Like This”
The matchless lead vocal on this song is simply stunning, transforming heartbreak and loss into a sonic masterpiece.
This song embodies all of the soul and swagger of the “5” Royales in one catchy, finger-snapping hit, punctuated by Lowman Pauling’s masterful guitar work.
A decidedly exuberant romp that starts out in overdrive and never lets up for a moment – messin’ up was never more fun.
“Dedicated to the One I Love”
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees the Mamas and the Papas’ and the Shirelles’ versions of this song are put to shame by the “5 ...
The 2015 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee exhibit opens April 11, 2015, and will feature amazing stories and incredible pieces from this year's class: The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, the "5" Royales, Green Day, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Lou Reed, Ringo Starr, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble, and Bill Withers.
Here are eight of our favorite items in the new exhibit, from a mirrored-star shirt designed by Slash's Mom to an infamously muddy outfit that was at the center of a near-riot at Woodstock '94.
1. Bill Withers' Main Guitar
Bill Withers was in many ways an anomaly in the music business. In the “Black Power” era of funk and flash, as he put it, “[In] 1970, 1971 or something, you know, I’m this black guy coming out sitting on a chair with an acoustic guitar.” His songwriting and performance style was understated, subtle, simply and straightforwardly constructed, and both articulate and honest. Withers' Martin acoustic guitar model D-35 was his main instrument, used to write and record with, and on stage for live performances.
2. Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day's Woodstock '94 Outfit
Woodstock '94 in Saugerites, New York, was ...
The sheer emotional impact of Jimi Hendrix’s Woodstock rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” sparked my fascination. His squealing guitar effects depicting the incoming descent of bombs that were soon “bursting in air,” grabbed me, especially as intensified on film when Hendrix “lip synched” the resulting cries and screams. His performance makes the abstract so very human. For me Hendrix’s Woodstock anthem of August 18, 1969, remains atop the list of the most powerful performances of Francis Scott Key’s song ever created.
The Woodstock anthem gets even more interesting when compared with the other 40 or so surviving recordings of Hendrix performing the song. They reveal Hendrix’s artistic as well as political evolution and define the critical and patriotic extremes of his expression to place Woodstock firmly in the middle as a combination of both. Here's a look at five incredible Hendrix versions of "The Star Spangled Banner.' Want more Hendrix? Catch Mark Clague going deep on all-things Hendrix at the Rock Hall's Library and Archives on Wednesday, March 25, 2015!
Hendrix first references the anthem melody a year ...
In advance of opening the latest Rock and Roll Hall of Fame exhibit Herb Ritts: The Rock Portraits on March, 13, 2015, the Rock Hall caught up with Chris Isaak for a look back at 1989's "Wicked Game" music video directed by Herb Ritts and featuring supermodel Helena Christensen.
What was the song "Wicked Game" about? Did the on-camera chemistry with supermodel Helena Christensen happen off-camera, too? What was photographer/director Herb Ritts' vision for the video? Chris Isaak answers all those questions and more.
Rock Hall: What was the song "Wicked Game" about?
Chris Isaak: It's about four in the morning, and somebody calling and saying I'm coming over to your house and I thought right after I said okay, I thought I should have never allowed this person to come over to my house. I know what's going to happen.
And I wrote the song between the time I got off the phone and the person came over to visit. It was just about what happens when you have a strong attraction to people that aren't necessarily good for you.
I think it hit a nerve because I think a lot of us ...
In the pantheon of rock and roll's greatest guitarists, there is a cadre of fabled axemen who consistently bubble to the top, including such Hall of Fame Inductees as Jeff Beck, Chuck Berry, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Robert Johnson, BB King and Jimmy Page – all artists represented at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio. And no discussion of six-string masters would be complete without Eddie Van Halen, the innovative firebrand that turned the world of guitar playing on its ear in the late 70s and early 1980s. "I was so used to doing old blues licks with the first three fingers," Van Halen once explained to a reporter. "When I started using my pinky and finding more spread things, that's when I started getting my own style." That style went on to influence millions of budding shredders. Here are five tracks that contributed to that influence:
Guitar Solo, from Live Without a Net (1986)
Van Halen went out with something to prove during the live tour for the 5150 album. With new singer Sammy Hagar, the band had to show fans and critics alike that it could keep rocking without Diamond Dave ...
Today, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is proud to announce the 2015 Hall of Fame Inductees. The Rock Hall's 2015 class includes the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Green Day, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, Lou Reed, Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble and Bill Withers, all in the performer category.
This year's class also recognizes the "5" Royales with the early influences award, and former Beatle and solo artist Ringo Starr enters the Hall of Fame – the last of the Fab Four to be inducted as a soloist, following John Lennon in 1994, Paul McCartney in 1999 and George Harrison in 2004.
“As we mark 30 years of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductions, we’re proud to honor these artists,” said Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation President Joel Peresman. "These Inductees epitomize rock and roll’s impact over the past 50 years and continuing through today."
Leading up to the April 18, 2015 ceremony, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame will host a series of special events, including the grand opening of the major new 2015 Inductee exhibit, which will serve as an introduction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame visitor ...