Rolling Stone: Smoking Section

Smoking Section

Bill Withers, Mark Ronson, The Police

by Austin Skaggs

Rolling Stone | 8/21/08, 12:05 pm EST

Photo: Buckner/Getty

We saw some killer shows in the last couple of weeks: The Radiohead and Kings of Leon sets at All Points West were brilliant; Wilco debuted a ridiculous new song at Lollapalooza while wearing rad Nudie suits; and Bob Dylan dazzled in Brooklyn. But sometimes we miss one. In this case it was the Bill Withers Tribute, part of the Celebrate Brooklyn series, which drew folks like Jim James (”Ain’t No Sunshine”), Nona Hendryx (”Lovely Day”) and others to pay tribute to the reclusive soul genius. And for the first time in decades, Withers himself stepped onstage, to sing “Grandma’s Hands.” When we reached Withers, he said he was drawn to the stage by legendary R&B guitarist Cornell Dupree. “I probably wouldn’t have bothered,” says the 70-year-old, the subject of an upcoming documentary. “I thought, ‘Let me go up there and hang out with Cornell for a minute.’” Ear-witness reports say Withers’ voice was glorious, but don’t expect to see him again. “This is not the age for showing off,” he says. “I’m just some old guy in the checkout line at the Home Depot. Which is fine with me.”