We all need somebody to lean on right about now.


When Lewis Grizzard was a renowned columnist at the Atlanta Constitution and I was holding down the obit desk there, he wrote a column about Elvis that said something like "If Elvis was 'country,' then my butt is a typewriter.'"

That's how I feel about Bill Withers: if Bill Withers was rhythm & blues, then my butt is an IBM Selectric or, for anyone born this millennium, an Apple Macbook Pro.

Wherever there's a jukebox or radio, music lovers will forever be playing and paying homage to Withers, the singer/songwriter who died recently at age 81.

He is deserving of every good thing said about him, but mark my words: too many of the encominiums about him will reflexively call him an R&B singer.

They're wrong. "Still Bill" - they called him that either because he barely moved except to gently rock while strumming his guitar or because he refused to allow the predatory music industry to change him - was a folk singer.

Now, I love R&B, and if I could come back in another life as anybody it would be as Otis Redding or Wilson Pickett, but it's just wrong to put that label on Withers. He hit the charts in 1971 as part of the same wave of singer-songwriters as Carole King, James Taylor, Carly Simon, Richie Havens and Judy Collins.