By Kyra Edwards
This aircraft mechanic-turned-million-selling, Grammy-winning artist, perhaps never foresaw his 1972 song about his loneliness in a big city becoming the solidarity anthem that it is today. Bill Withers, acclaimed for possessing a natural ability to articulate a wide range of feelings and perspectives through song, once told Songfacts about his hit sensation “Lean on Me” that: “It’s a rural song that translates across demographical lines”
Time and time again, we have seen the song rally together those rising up after tragedies, like that of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Hurricanes Irma and Harvey, or those requiring resilience during major adversities like that of the global coronavirus pandemic where medical professionals were risking their own lives in service to others.
Time and time again, we have seen the song rally together those rising up after tragedies
One such professional was Dr. Jamii St. Julien. In 2020 Dr. St. Julien along with his professional peers at St. Anthony’s Hospital uploaded their own cover of the song to YouTube. It would garner approximately 28K views (as of September 2022). A day following the video’s release, Dr. St. Julien would state in an interview with Tampa Bay News that the song made patients feel better, and relieve their anxiety. This would be among one of the hundreds of covers of the iconic song that was uploaded to a social platform during its 2020 resurgence.
Withers, in a much earlier 2006 interview with American Songwriter, also addressed the reasons why he believed the song resonated with listeners during turbulent times. “Romantic love you only wanna touch people because they’re pretty and they appeal to you physically. The more substantial kind of love is when you want to touch people and care for them when they’re at their worst”.
Though it has been a whopping fifty years since the single’s debut, the tune has cemented itself in pop culture, and as long as crises and emergencies continue to occur, it does not appear to be going away any time soon.
2010 earthquake in Haiti: https://youtu.be/FYXKp160JVQ
Hurricanes Irma and Harvey: https://youtu.be/UysJARy1u2I
Tampa Bay News Interview: https://www.wtsp.com/video/entertainment/places/bobby-lewis-on-the-road/singing-surgeon-hopes-to-cheer-up-patients-with-lean-on-me-rendition/67-577520fe-595e-4cbd-8ab1-d382f86f399e
2006 American Songwriter Interview: https://americansongwriter.com/bill-withers-lean-on-me/