New Documentary

Bill Withers’ Desperation Gets Loud in New Documentary

By J. Hayes

New

American Music Examiner | October 16, 2009 9:54 PM


photo courtesy of Late Night & Weekends

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation,” muses music legend Bill Withers in the new documentary Still Bill. “I would like to know how it feels for my desperation to get louder.”

The 70 year old master songwriter can casually quote Thoreau and sound like a complete rock star in the same breath. The documentary, whose name is taken from the title of the subject’s classic 1972 sophmore album, chronicles an amazing artist at a turning point in his life and creativity. Filmmakers Damani Baker and Alex Vlack gained access to the life of the unlikely superstar who turned his back on the music industry in 1985. Together, they have created a touching and empowering portrait of a man most know little about, but whose music has been a part of all our lives.

Withers’ honest lyrics and hummable melodies are easily as fundamental to American music (and by extension popular music of the world) as that of The Beatles or Bob Dylan, with a deep soulfulness that reaches the listeners heart in a way unmatched by either. In Still Bill, the filmmakers have captured the feel of many Bill Withers’ songs; heart-warming and down to earth with just a touch of sadness. Classic performance footage from the 1970s and 80s is interspersed with brand new interviews, current footage of Withers with his family and performances from a 2008 tribute show featuring Cornell Dupree and Corey Glover, among others.

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