by Michael P Coleman

Fans of classic soul are in for a treat this summer.  Grammy nominated singer / songwriter Anthony David is releasing a Bill Withers tribute album. 

I can sum up my feelings about that in three simple words:  Thank. You. Jesus. 

Now, the young ‘uns may not immediately recognize Bill Withers’ name, and that’s a travesty.  Withers burst onto the music scene in the early 70s with a series of singles and albums that immediately set him apart from the pack.  He had an immediately recognizable, raspy tenor, and he never sang a false note with it.  Among his most famous compositions is the classic “Lean On Me,” and his hits included “Ain’t No Sunshine,” “Lovely Day,” and “Just The Two Of Us.” 

AnthonyDavidSingleCoverOne of Withers’ most poignant albeit lesser known songs is the haunting “I Can’t Write Left Handed,” which he wrote in 1972 in response to our involvement in the Vietnam War.   Almost 50 years later, David has brilliantly covered that masterpiece for his upcoming album of Bill Withers covers, and it’s the project’s lead single. 

“When I first heard this song, it stopped me in my tracks,” David says.  “I had gone to Desert Storm and the way [Withers] described the mentality of young men who go off, I don’t think anyone has ever really described in a song before.  The idea that the people are driven that way, oftentimes are just young guys looking for something to do, and don’t have much of a take on the bigger picture.” 

“For me, it was a way to do something my dad did, and maybe travel,” David continues.  “For my dad, I believe it was a way to get out of small town Florida and see the world, maybe make some money to have a family. It’s not really a political thing. We learn that stuff later. Maybe.” 

“Maybe.”  One gets the sense that David, like Withers, has a story to tell. 

With American soldiers still in combat in the Middle East, “I Can’t Write Left-Handed” is just as relevant today as it was in 1972.  David matches Withers’ vocal fervor on the song, delivering some of the strongest singing of his career.  When so little of today’s popular music addresses deeper issues, David’s new single is a powerful, socially relevant breath of fresh air. 

David says he’s often been compared to Withers.  The two share a similar vocal timbre, but David deserves props for his upcoming attempt to cover Withers’ immaculate catalog. 

David says he’s up to the task.

“In many ways Bill Withers is the artist most influential to my music career,” David confides.  “Beginning with my first project, people would always mention his name in terms of my sound. Once I refreshed myself in his music that I grew up with, it gave me confidence, because up until then I wasn’t sure there was a space for me. I’ve covered some of his songs in my sets and there are so many great ones I wanted to do — the big classics, plus some deeper in his catalog that I’ve always loved.”

I did my best to get the upcoming album’s track list from David, but he’s keeping it close to the vest!  So for now, we’ll have to be content with that lead single, “I Can’t Write Left Handed,” which will be released digitally on July 4, the birthday of both Withers and our nation.  David’s Bill Withers tribute album, Hello Like Before, will follow on September 21. 

As I said, this summer, musically, is gonna be a lovely day! 

 Connect with Sacramento-based freelancer Michael P Coleman at or follow him on Twitter:  @ColemanMichaelP.


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