A three-time Grammy Award winner, he had a string of much-covered hits in the 1970s but had not released an album since 1985.
Bill Withers, a onetime Navy aircraft mechanic who, after teaching himself to play the guitar, wrote some of the most memorable and often-covered songs of the 1970s, including “Lean on Me,” “Ain’t No Sunshine” and “Use Me,” died on Monday in Los Angeles. He was 81.
His death, at a hospital, was announced by his family. His son, Todd, said Mr. Withers had had heart problems.
Mr. Withers, who had an evocative, gritty R&B voice that could embody loss or hope, was in his 30s when he released his first album, “Just as I Am,” in 1971. It included “Ain’t No Sunshine,” a mournful lament (“Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone/And she’s always gone too long/Anytime she goes away”) that cracked the Billboard Top 10.