The timing of these last two posts is purely coincidental. How was I to know that in the month since I wrote about New Edition’s “Home Again” that I’d be laid up in the apartment for four weeks and that Bill Withers would pass away? Alas, here we are, and my first two posts of April are about John Mayer’s ode to staying home and a gem from the recently departed Withers.
“Ain’t No Sunshine”, Withers’ first hit single and the second track on his debut Just As I Am, is already a breakup anthem for the ages. Well; maybe it’s not so much about a breakup as it is about an infatuation that’s doomed for failure. “Hope She’ll Be Happier” kicks off Side 2 of the same album and is definitely a breakup song (as is the set’s last track, “Better Off Dead”, which takes a breakup to an unfortunate and frightening conclusion).
It doesn’t appear to come from a place of bitterness or spite. When Bill sings “I hope she’ll be happier with him”, it sounds like he legitimately means it. Which kinda makes my heart hurt even more than if he was just singing it to throw shade. What makes the song doubly affecting is its simplicity. Feels like Bill just walked into the studio, plugged his guitar into an amp and sang his heart out. When he hits that last note during the bridge-extending the word “gone” out to about ten seconds, all I can think is…
And that was before Bill passed on. These days, when I listen to “Hope She’ll Be Happier”, I’ll feel those same emotions coupled with the nagging feeling that we might not get another singer/songwriter like Bill coming down the pike any time soon. He is already missed.