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."
Coming up: The Kashmere Stage Band documentary wins a major award, and a groundbreaking rock doc celebrates an anniversary. In Other News
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the mission of the Houston Press. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Houston’s stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
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.