When Bill Withers joined Stevie Wonder for a stunning performance of 'Ain't No Sunshine'

13 August 2021, 12:07

Stevie Wonder inducting Bill Withers into the Roll & Roll Hall Of Fame, and Withers performing at London's Hammersmith Odeon in 1972. Photos: Getty Images
Stevie Wonder inducting Bill Withers into the Roll & Roll Hall Of Fame, and Withers performing at London's Hammersmith Odeon in 1972. Photos: Getty Images. Picture: Getty

By Thomas Curtis-Horsfall

It had been a long time since soul legend Bill Withers had appeared on stage before he joined Stevie Wonder at the Roll & Roll Hall Of Fame.

In fact, in was the best part of four decades since he had retired from writing, recording, and performing music entirely.

That's why it was even more of a surprise that Withers returned to the spotlight for his induction to the Roll & Roll Hall Of Fame in 2015.

Read more: The Story of... 'Ain't No Sunshine' by Bill Withers

And there was arguably only one artist that could do the late Bill Withers' devastatingly beautiful and relatable body of work justice: his friend Stevie Wonder.

Stevie pays tribute to one of his idol's and inspirations in the most flattering way possible, by singing Withers' most famous song 'Ain't No Sunshine' back to him in front of an adoring crowd.

In a performance that feels even more poignant now since Bill Withers passed away in 2020, he sweetly sits by Stevie's side, watching in awe.

And it's difficult not to, given that Stevie Wonder performs Bill's signature song with the trademark passion and spine-tingling soul you'd come to expect.

Read more: 7 of the greatest Bill Withers songs ever

Stevie was himself 65 at the time of the performance, and it makes you really wonder if his timeless voice will ever diminish.

Despite 'Ain't No Sunshine' being universally regarded as one of the most moving soul ballads in recent history, it was smiles all around as Bill congratulates Stevie once the performance comes to an end.

Stevie Wonder and Bill Withers perform onstage during the 30th Annual Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony on April 18, 2015. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images)
Stevie Wonder and Bill Withers perform onstage during the 30th Annual Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony on April 18, 2015. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images). Picture: Getty

They later met on the podium as Stevie inducted Bill with a heartfelt message in his introduction speech:

"What determines a great songwriters and singers is when they let you feel every word they sing and express. That which you can relate to."

Bill Withers' acceptance speech was just as emotive and eloquent, proving his credentials as a natural storyteller and wordsmith.

Read more: Soul legend Bill Withers has died at the age of 81

Stevie clearly admired Bill tremendously, and was planning on recording a duet together before his passing. They'd remained in contact up until Bill's death:

"We’d been texting each other," Stevie said. "He texted me in January telling me how much he appreciated me being there for him, then in February he texted about playing together."

Read more: Stevie Wonder has revealed that he was planning on working with Bill Withers, before the 'Ain't No Sunshine' singer died last week.

Stevie continued: "I responded that it would be my pleasure, my joy. Just let me know and I’ll be there. That’s the last message I got from him."

We can only think about what might've been, but at least we have this performance to savour.