Monday Morning Wake-Up Call (Bill Withers, A Whole Person)

“My father was this coal miner, but he was always interested in reading. Never got a chance to go to school. But he read. And, you know, dignity was very important to him. The first thing that I had to resolve in my life and the one thing that was very important to me, I had to sort this out: ‘Can I go into this thing and avoid the minstrel-ness of it?’ This is a business. And you got some cold pimps that will mail you out until you die in your grave. You got as many thieves in this stuff… There’s a life you have to run. And you do the best you can. And hopefully, as a human being, you improve. I’m 70-years-old. I’m not some kind of mindless troubadour. You know? I have an intellect I have to manage, I have some thoughts I have to manage, I have a life I have to maintain. I want to know where my stuff is. You know? I want to know who I am. I don’t want to be some simple-minded blues boy. You can bleep this out: ‘Kiss my ass with that shit.’ So I’m doing the best I can. To grow and improve my lineage as a species. So I got some responsibilities that require that I be available. I never had the benefit of a formal education, but I’ve always wanted to better myself. I can speak the language. I can write it, make it rhyme for you, if you want to. You know what I mean? Somebody said, “Education is the sum total of what you know.” That’s everything from tying your shoe to whether you can do quadratic equations or not. So, I’m not saying this should be a template for everybody, but that’s just the kind of person that makes sense for me to be. Hopefully the music that I made is useful to somebody. I mean, I get nice letters from people that say, ‘Hey man, my grandmother died, and the song helped me.’ I like that kind of stuff. As a result, it was important to me, as best I could, to try to wind up with a life that had some stability and some dignity in it… I made some choices earlier… that I wanted to be a whole person. Not just this entertainer thing. It doesn’t fill up my plate. I love it — who wouldn’t like it? But it doesn’t fill up my plate.”

Bill Withers, on why he walked away from the music business in 1985 in an Interview on The Sound of Young America



  1. This was such an interesting post David. One of my favorite songs is “Lean on Me”. “Ain’t No Sunshine” is another. But, I never read about the man behind the music. I never even remembered his name. Mr. Withers is just a few years older than me and I haven’t read his the book. I think it’s time. Thank you for sharing this wonderful post.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “There’s a life you have to run.” Such an interesting way to frame it up…’run,’ not ‘live.’ Intriguing….

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I didn’t know I could love Bill Withers more…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. i have always loved him and his music, and now i love him even more. i love the definition he shared: “Education is the sum total of what you know.” yes.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks for this…I never understood why he walked away. A powerful, respectful decision.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I love Bill Withers. This is one of my favorites:
    He’s a solid human being. Aloha, David 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m moving backwards through your posts and finding a strong through-line of “making choices.” Your reptilian brain kicking something around?

    Liked by 1 person

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