From "Ain't No Sunshine to " to "Lean on Me" to "Lovely Day," Bill Withers' honeyed voice and sage lyrics, brought to life with those sinuous, haunting grooves, have always sounded like they did for the first time–fresh, relevant, right. It's music that comes from an individual with soul and intelligence, a storyteller in the great folk tradition, cool because he doesn't try to be.
To the heartbreak of his fans, Withers made his last record in 1985. But the man, now 71 and living a quiet, rich life with his wife Marcia in L.A., hasn't stopped the music. Or being funny and cool as ever. The artist's storytelling and story are playing the big screen in the new documentary, "Still Bill."
We caught the L.A. stop of the film on its current world tour Friday night at the Downtown Independent, a fabulous, new 236-seat theater on Main Street that is going to become one of our favorite places to see indie films. The rooftop afterparty was choc-a-bloc with the chicest bunch of downtown-type creative enthusiasts of all ages, and the backdrop of the surrounding sky-high buildings enhanced the scene all the more.
The 78-minute film is directed by Damani Baker and Alex Vlack, who also executive produced the project, and is an entertaining, edifying look at the life of a man whose music is so part of our cultural fabric in many ways (most recently, his 1972 hit "Use Me" on the HBO series "Hung") but whose life is little known about.
Will let you find out for yourself. But even if you're a casual fan of his music, the film itself is well worth the $12 ticket. It's a well-done doc (as it turns out, Withers also appears in another great doc that came out this summer, "Soul Power," about the concert before the legendary 1974 Muhammad Ali-George Foreman boxing match in Zaire). And it's one worth seeing on a big screen with a great sound system.
"Still Bill" is playing the Downtown Independent through this Thursday night, October 1. Tickets are only $12 online or at the box office. The film is making its way through indie theaters worldwide in coming weeks. Check out the full listing of screenings.
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