Hollywood Ain't No Sunshine in Bill Withers Documentary

Keep Houston Press Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Houston and help keep the future of Houston Press free.

Still Bill, the documentary about soul legend Bill Withers (not the Tarantino movie), was released on DVD this week. The filmmakers spent eight years documenting the life of the Thoreau-quoting, piano-playing, philosophizing bluesman, who had immense success with a string of R&B and pop hits but never really trusted the music industry enough to become a megastar.

Even if you don't know Withers' name, you know his songs - "Lean on Me," "Just the Two of Us." "Lovely Day" will resonate with children of the '90s who recall PM Dawn's version, and the opening, humming hook of his touching ode "Grandma's Hands" was sampled by Blackstreet for the song "No Diggity".

"Ain't No Sunshine," an eternal favorite of Hollywood Shuffle's, was Withers' first hit. He recorded it while working as an airline mechanic for Douglas Aircraft, but refused to quit his job because he didn't want to play the "fame game." Though Withers' music has endured, he shirked from the entertainment industry for many years before the filming of the documentary started.

Withers' father died when he was a kid, and his experience of the youngest of six growing up in a coal mining town may have influenced his work ethic. One quote from the movie gives good insight into his state of mind.

"It's OK to head out for wonderful, but on your way to wonderful, you're gonna have to pass through all right. When you get to all right, take a good look around and get used to it, because that may be as far as you're gonna go."

The DVD is available on Netflix, and can be downloaded from the documentary's website. You can listen to an interview with the filmmakers on NPR.

Coming up: The Kashmere Stage Band documentary wins a major award, and a groundbreaking rock doc celebrates an anniversary. In Other News

Thunder Soul, the documentary film about Houston's Kashmere High School Stage Band which debuted at SXSW this year, won the Hot Docs Audience Favorite Award this week in Toronto. The Hot Docs Film Festival is the largest documentary film fest int North America. Thunder Soul got the top honors out of 170 films. The musical documentary also won the Lone Star State audience award at SXSW.

Soundtrack of the Week

It's all documentaries this week on Hollywood Shuffle. Monday marks the 43rd anniversary of the premiere of Dont Look Back, the highly influential documentary by D. A. Pennebaker that followed Bob Dylan (and Donovan) on his 1965 tour of Great Britain. Twelve years ago the film was marked for preservation by the Library of Congress as artistically and culturally relevant. It's available in nine segments on YouTube, and on DVD via Netflix.

Yeah yeah yeah, we know this isn't a soundtrack, but we'll be playing the DVD in the background at Casa Shuffle all weekend. Now give the anarchist a cigarette.

Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.


Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.