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Bill Withers to talk music, artistic integrity at pre-commencement event

Bill Withers and Travis Stimeling

Bill WIthers, left, and Travis Stimeling, right.

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The public will get a rare opportunity to hear from a songwriter whose work explores the challenging daily lives of working people and simultaneously offers a seemingly endless supply of hope when he sits down with a West Virginia University scholar of commercial country and Appalachian traditional music.

A native West Virginian, Bill Withers’ 1971 debut album broke into the Top 40 of the Billboard album charts and generated two singles, “Ain’t No Sunshine” and “Grandma’s Hands,” that reached the Top 50 of the Billboard “Hot 100” singles chart, launching more than a decade of chart and critical success.

He’ll sit down with Travis Stimeling, a professor of music at the WVU College of Creative Arts, at 7 p.m. Thursday (May 11) in the Museum Education Center at the Art Museum of West Virginia University to talk about his career and craft. The event is free and open to the public.

“A critically acclaimed singer-songwriter, a spokesperson for West Virginia values and a musician whose influence is felt in a wide variety of musical styles, Withers is a significant West Virginian,” Stimeling said.

Stimeling is the author of Cosmic Cowboys and New Hicks: The Countercultural Sounds of Austin’s Progressive Music Scene and has published articles in American Music, Popular Music and Journal of popular Music Studies and edited The Country Music Reader, an anthology of primary source readings in country music spanning the late 19th century to the present. He earned a National Endowment of the Arts fellowship to create the first historical record of “Nashville Sound.”

Withers, who will receive an honorary Doctoral Degree at the 2017 WVU College of Creative Arts commencement ceremonies on Friday, was born in Raleigh County in 1938, spending much of his early life in Slab Fork, a rural coal camp, and later moving to Beckley. Withers has achieved all of the markers of success in the highly competitive international music business while remaining a model of integrity for his fellow musicians and one of the Mountain State’s most outspoken proponents.

One of the most successful soul musicians of the 1970s and, since leaving the music industry in the early 1980s, Withers has remained a significant influence and his music has served as a rich pool of inspiration for such successful contemporary musicians as John Legend, the Roots, Kanye West and Maroon 5.



CONTACT: Bernadette Dombrowski, College of Creative Arts

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