Legendary singer songwriter Bill Withers died after suffering a cardiopulmonary arrest, which was complicated by arrhythmia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), his death certificate shows. According to the document, which was obtained by TMZ, the 81-year-old's immediate cause of death is a cardiopulmonary arrest; the underlying causes are listed as COPD and bradyarrhythmia.
Withers died on March 30 at 10:44 a.m. at Providence Tarzana Regional Medical Center in Los Angeles, California, according to the document, which also notes he spent 49 years in the entertainment business. He was apparently laid to rest at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in L.A. Withers, a three-time-Grammy winner, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015, and joked that same year to Rolling Stone that he often heard from people who thought he had already passed away after he withdrew from the public eye many years before in the mid-1980s.
"Sometimes I wake up and I wonder myself," he told the magazine with a laugh. "A very famous minister actually called me to find out whether I was dead or not. I said to him, 'Let me check.'"
At the time of Withers' death, his family released a statement mourning his loss. "We are devastated by the loss of our beloved, devoted husband and father. A solitary man with a heart driven to connect to the world at large, with his poetry and music, he spoke honestly to people and connected them to each other. As private a life as he lived close to intimate family and friends, his music forever belongs to the world. In this difficult time, we pray his music offers comfort and entertainment as fans hold tight to loved ones."
Reflecting on the status of music today, Withers said, "I grew up in the age of Barbra Streisand, Aretha Franklin, Nancy Wilson. It was a time where a fat, ugly broad that could sing had value. Now everything is about image. It’s not poetry. This just isn’t my time."
Famous for songs such as "Lean On Me," "Lovely Day" and "Ain't No Sunshine," Withers' impact was still felt even years after his withdrawal from the spotlight — especially in the African-American community, Questlove told the magazine. "He's the last African-American Everyman. Jordan's vertical jump has to be higher than everyone. Michael Jackson has to defy gravity. On the other side of the coin, we're often viewed as primitive animals. We rarely land in the middle. Bill Withers is the closest thing black people have to a Bruce Springsteen," Questlove said.