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(Credit: Columbia Records)

Music

Watch Bill Withers' outstanding 1973 BBC performance

@notmyyaztattoo

You don’t have to actively listen to classic American singer-songwriter Bill Withers album after album in order to have a knowledge and appreciation of his work. Iconic songs like ‘Just the Two of Us’, ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’, and ‘Lean on Me’ are recognisable classics that have a hold on the music world generation after generation.

Throughout his lifetime, Bill Withers won three Grammy awards and garnered six Grammy nominations. He was also inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2005 and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015 — safe to say that his legacy is one that lasts. 

Throughout the 1970s, Bill Withers was signed to Sussex records, where he recorded a variety of his well-known hits like ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’, ‘Use Me’, and ‘Lean On Me’. During this booming era, he performed in a variety of historic concerts and venues, including his performance at Carnegie Hall, which was recorded and released as the live album Bill Withers, Live at Carnegie Hall on November 30, 1972. Shortly thereafter, 1973 saw his live BBC concert come to fruition.

In this full live performance, you can clearly hear the strong, soulful vocals that Bill Withers has long been known for. What’s unique about this one, in particular, is the crisp quality of the vocal isolation, which for many recordings of live performances of the era, is a rarity. Although he is still backed by a full band, there’s a stripped-down quality to these songs, perhaps aided by his intense instrumentation on the acoustic guitar.

Bill Withers isn’t a go-to for performance theatrics or an avant-garde stage presence, but there is something captivating about watching him get lost in the music. There’s a certain intensity to watching him perform; even if his music seems more like the kind you put on for a nostalgia trip soundtrack in the car or to dance around in the kitchen, this performance in his prime is certainly worth the half-hour you’ll spend watching it.

In addition to the musicality, the shots are dynamic and interesting, capturing the contours of his face, how he moves with every song and the interactions with the backing band.

The concert features classic tracks of his, with ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’, ‘Lean On Me’, ‘Use Me’, ‘Let Me In Your Life’, and ‘Harlem’ rounding out the setlist, among others. 

This video also seems to be a fan favourite. One needs to look no further than the comments section to pick up on the love that generations of fans have for his music. One commenter writes, “It’s absolutely amazing to have a 73′ concert with just a click, I love how you can see how things were nearly 50 years ago.”

Getting specific about their love for the music, one commenter writes, “Bill Withers is one of the best singers, composers, humans to have walked the Earth…right up there with Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway, Marvin Gaye.” While another adds, “Still listening to this in 2021 and will most definitely still be listening in 2031!! His voice is simply amazing, pure character and meaning behind it. Every song gives me goosebumps.”

There’s no doubt about it, this performance is a great choice no matter the mood. You might just find yourself getting sucked in without realising it. You can watch the full live performance below.