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The recent loss of legends in jazz, soul and classical music have saddened the music industry and reminded us of their touching gifts to music. The passing of Manu Dibango, Krzysztof Penderecki, Ellis Marsalis Jr., Bucky Pizzarelli and Alan Merrill brought endless tributes from peers and fans with the recent loss of soul singer-songwriter Bill Withers doing the same.
With a mirage of hits, the iconic songwriter left his mark on music with the release of his debut album Just As I Am in 1971. "Ain't No Sunshine" put a spotlight on his songwriting while 1977's "Lovely Day" reminded the industry of his signature vocals. Withers released eight studio albums, one live album and garnered three Grammys for his powerful songs that gave hope and love to fans to this day.
Hip-hop and R&B have gained the most from Withers as his music went on to inspire records like "No Diggity" by BLACKStreet, "Roses" by Kanye West and other songs from UGK, Dr. Dre, Jill Scott and more.
Take a look at some of Withers' finest tunes covered, remixed and sampled below.
__8. “Lovely Day” | Menagerie (1977)
Sampled On: T.W.D.Y., “Player’s Holiday” | Derty Werk (1999) LunchMoneyLewis - “It's Gonna Be A Lovely Day” feat. Aminè | Pets 2 Soundtrack (2019) Swizz Beatz - “Take A Picture” |One Man Band (2007)
Standout: T.W.D.Y., “Player’s Holiday” | Derty Werk (1999)
Short for "The Whole Damn Yay," the group used Withers' sample while throwing a splash of The Bay's laid back flavor. With cameos from future legends like E-40 and Ray Luv, the single already embodied the best of R&B and hip-hop with guest verses from Too Short, Mac Mall and Otis & Shug. The mimosas and yacht are also a great touch.
Covered By: Jill Scott, The Original Jill Scott from the Vault Vol. 1 (2011) Alt-J, This Is All Yours (2014) Robert Glasper Experiment, Black Radio 2 (2013) Kirk Franklin, The Nu Nation Project (1998)
Standout: Kirk Franklin, The Nu Nation Project (1998)
Who was going to beat a chorus singing to the lordt? Franklin's take on the classic gives us stirring gospel and appreciation for Withers and God. There are plenty of covers that have lifted the same vocals as Withers, but the ones listed have put their unique spin on the track.7. “Ain't No Sunshine” | Just As I Am (1971)
Sampled On: DMX - “No Sunshine” | Exit Wounds Soundtrack (2001) Lil B - “Up And Down” | Based Jam (2012) 2Pac- "Soulja's Story" | 2Pacalypse Now (1991)
Standout: DMX - “No Sunshine” | Exit Wounds Soundtrack (2001)
"No Sunshine" served as the only single from DMX's film alongside Steven Seagal, which gave everyone the perfect backdrop to the movie and X's intricate storytelling. Both the original and flipped version points out the dark elements of our lives. Withers penned the song after watching the film 1962 movie Days of Wine and Roses, he pondered over the toxicity in his life. "Sometimes you miss things that weren't particularly good for you," he said in 2004 to SongFacts. "It's just something that crossed my mind from watching that movie, and probably something else that happened in my life that I'm not aware of."
Covered By: Soul For Real | Candy Rain (1994) Michael Jackson | Got to Be There (1972) The Boris Gardiner Happening | Is What's Happening (1973) The Temptations | Solid Rock (1972)
Standout: Michael Jackson | Got to Be There (1972)
At 14, the future King of Pop gave a riveting cover of Withers' hit for his debut album, Got To Be There. From his vocal control throughout the track to the instrumentation, his cover takes the song to another level of heartbreak.6. "Grandma's Hands” | Just As I Am (1971)
Sampled On: BLACKstreet - “No Diggity” feat. Dr. Dre and Queen Pen | Another Level (1996) Big K.R.I.T. - “I Gotta Stay” | K.R.I.T. Wuz Here (2010) Brother Ali - “Waheedah's Hands” | Champion (2004)
Standout: BLACKstreet - “No Diggity” feat. Dr. Dre and Queen Pen | Another Level (1996)
R&B heads are well aware of BLACKstreet's neverending ballads and the genius of Teddy Riley. But the pivot of their sound for their sophomore album Another Level was due to Withers and the William “Stylez” Stewart. Speaking to Fact Mag in 2017, the creator of New Jack Swing gave credit to Stylez for bringing him the sample of "Grandma's Hands."
“If he hadn’t played that sample for me, there would never be a ‘No Diggity’ And if he didn’t write it according to the melody I gave him so it would sound that way because I wanted it to sound funky,” he said. “I wanted it to be appealing to everyone, but mostly to women. I wanted every woman to feel like they were the ‘No Diggity’ girl and that song was about them and it came across. And now, still, today, that song plays and people are on that dancefloor.”
Covered By: Gil Scott-Heron, Reflections (1981) Merry Clayton, Merry Clayton (1971) Barbra Streisand, Butterfly (1974)
Standout: Gil Scott-Heron, Reflections (1981)
Gil Scott-Heron's version of the soul classic reminded us of his versatile talents. From spoken word to his vocal abilities, the Godfather of rap music always came through with his own sound and style. Reflections was one of four albums the late artist dropped in the 80s with critics looking to it as one of his finest projects. Other cuts from the album included "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)" and "B Love."5. "Use Me" | Still Bill (1972)
Sampled On: Kendrick Lamar - “Sing About Me, I'm Dying Of Thirst" | Good kid, Maad City (2012) J. Cole- "Dollar And A Dream II" | The Warm-Up (2009) Leela James - “So Good" | Fall For You (2014) UGK - "Use Me Up" | The Southern Way (1992)
Standout: Kendrick Lamar - “Sing About Me, I'm Dying Of Thirst" | Good kid, Maad City (2012)
Lamar's take on "Use Me" blended right into the themes of his debut album, Good kid, Maad City allowing the artist to create another world on the project. To make things even better, Lamar also sampled Al Green's "I'm Glad You're Mine" for the track.
Covered By: Grace Jones, Indigo Nights, Live (2008) Mick Jagger feat. Lenny Kravitz, Wandering Spirit (2004) Issac Hayes, Dr. Dolittle Soundtrack (1998)
Standout: Mick Jagger feat. Lenny Kravitz, Wandering Spirit (2004)
On his third solo album, Jagger linked with Rick Rubin to test his creative energy, allowing him to work with Lenny Kravitz on their version of "Use Me." Colliding worlds was one thing but to hear Kravitz's vocals come in on the bridge, set the track apart from the rest.4. “Kissing My Love” | Still Bill (1972)
Sampled On: J. Cole - “The Cut Off" featuring kiLL Edward | KOD (2018) Dr. Dre - "Let Me Ride" featuring Snoop Dogg, RC and Jewell | The Chronic (1992) Masta Ace- "Movin On" | Take A Look Around (1990) Master P- "Bastard Child" | The Ghettos Tryin To Kill Me! | 1994
Standout: Dr. Dre - "Let Me Ride" featuring Snoop Dogg, RC and Jewell | The Chronic (1992)
"Kissing My Love" is one of most sampled from Withers catalog, thanks to its feverish drums. It's also why it fits into Dr. Dre's single and the G-funk era.3. Grover Washington's “Just The Two of Us” featuring Bill Withers | Winelight (1981)
Sampled/Covered On: Will Smith - “Just The Two of Us” | Big Willie Style (1997) Eminem- "Just The Two of Us" | Slim Shady EP (1997) Keri Hilson- "Pretty Girl Rock" | No Boys Allowed (2010)
Standout: Will Smith - “Just The Two of Us” | Big Willie Style (1997)
Touching and soulful, Smith's dedication to his eldest son Trey is just too cute for words.2. “Let It Be” | Just As I Am (1967)
The Original: The Beatles - “Let It Be” | Let It Be (1968)
"Let It Be" is a pretty special record. Aretha Franklin recorded a version a year before the release of The Beatles' version and Withers gave his take on the record in the 70s. Slightly faster, his upbeat take on "Let It Be" just hits different.1. “Rosie” | Menagerie Re-Issue (1977)
Sampled On: Kanye West - “Roses” | Late Registration (2005)
As the somber part of Late Registration, "Roses" brings us into Kanye's world where he contemplates the mortality of a loved one. It's a sentimental take on the sample and one of the artist's most underrated songs. It's also a hidden gem for Withers as it isn't featured on Menagerie's LP. It was added as a bonus track on
Enjoy the jams in playlist form below.
To reduce the spread of COVID-19 in Puerto Rico, Gov. Wanda Vázquez has inquired a possible ban on flights from popular cities in the United States due to the high number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus.
Associated Press reports Gov. Vázquez launched the petition to the Federal Aviation Administration this week after officials accused tourists of taking medication to reduce their fevers and failing to adhere to the self-isolation rules. The incidents were later confirmed by GNPR general aide, General José Reyes.
The FAA reportedly granted a request for all flights to arrive at Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (LMM), so that Puerto Rico National Guard (GNPR) could screen passengers arriving at the island.
“Now we want people from the areas most affected by Covid-19 not to arrive," Vázquez said. "This as part of the necessary measures to prevent this virus from spreading and affecting the health of the people of Puerto Rico."
As part of the proposal, Vázquez has listed flights from New York, Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Illinois as "hot spots" of the coronavirus.
Meanwhile, cases in Puerto Rico have sadly risen. The island has reported at least 24 deaths and 620 confirmed cases. Much like in cites like New York, a curfew was imposed on March 15 that closed non-essential businesses and ordered people to stay in their homes with the exception of grocery shopping or picking up medication.
There's no denying The Weeknd's influence over today's string of moody/alternative R&B. The singer-songwriter has changed the scope of the genre with his mix of synths and dark lyrics but the artist believes he inspired one of the biggest artists in the genre in the process.
As the cover star of Variety's latest issue, The Weeknd discussed the success of After Hours, transitioning into mainstream music and his presence in R&B. While looking back on his classic 2010 mixtape House of Balloons, he noted how two years later he began hearing his sound in other artists.
“House of Balloons literally changed the sound of pop music before my eyes,” he said. “I heard ‘Climax,’ that  Usher song, and was like, ‘Holy f**k, that’s a Weeknd song.’ It was very flattering, and I knew I was doing something right, but I also got angry. But the older I got, I realized it’s a good thing.”
But the resurgence of EDM in the early 2010s might've inspired Usher's hit single. "Climax" which went on to win the Grammy for Best R&B Performance in 2013, was produced by Diplo who looked towards house music and "Atlanta strip clubs" to create the track.
Speaking to The Guardian in 2012, Diplo discussed how he learned about Usher's musical palate which included an appreciation for genre-bending artists like Monsters of Folk and Grizzly Bear.
"The production actually started as a house thing with a chord progression that I wrote, but with some time in the studio alone, I was making a sort of "wildfire" beat out of it," Diplo said." The idea of pushing cut-off on a synth used so much in progressive house music but pulling back. I was making something like a minimal techno record with Atlanta strip clubs in mind."
He also shared how much Usher knew of his work outside of Major Lazer. "Usher knew about my first album on Ninja Tune, Florida," he added. "I was so surprised about how much these guys are into music beyond their normal lane. That is something that makes it very easy to work with him. Usher has the power to take a record into any lane. He's that big. He brought house music to the R&B crowds in America, and with "Yeah!" he brought synths to Atlanta hip-hop. I think he wasn't going to these producers for their sounds ... We all know what they do. Usher is a smart man, he has been doing this for long enough. He's using the producers instead of the other way around."
"Climax" ended up on Usher's Looking For Myself album, which played to all his strengths with dance tracks like "Scream," quiet storm jams like "Dive" and "What Happened To U" and the clubs like "Lemme See" with Rick Ross.
Legendary superproducer Max Martin also worked on "Climax" and would eventually work with The Weeknd on Beauty Behind The Madness standouts like "Can't Feel My Face" and "In The Night."
This isn't the first time the two have been compared to one another. The Weekend issued an apology to Usher in 2016 during the Billboard Music Awards after he mistakenly claimed to win the most awarded male R&B vocalist in the show's history. The Weeknd took home eight trophies including Top R&B Artist and Top R&B Album for Beauty Behind The Madness.
But Usher famously took home 11 trophies in the 2004 telecast for his magnum opus, Confessions including awards for Artist of the Year, Male Artist of the Year, and Hot 100 Song of the Year for "Yeah!".
Elsewhere in the interview, The Weeknd also explained his decision to release After Hours in the middle of the novel coronavirus pandemic. “Fans had been waiting for the album, and I felt like I had to deliver it," he said."The commercial success is a blessing, especially because the odds were against me: [Music] streaming is down 10%, stores are closed, people can’t go to concerts, but I didn’t care. I knew how important it was to my fans.”
The album amassed 2 billion global streams in its first week and debuted at No. 1 in the U.S., Canada, Australia, the U.K., Ireland, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy and New Zealand.