Consequence and Sony are back with Season 14 of The Opus, an exploration of legendary albums and their ongoing legacy. This time out, host Jill Hopkins explores how a “regular guy” like Bill Withers turned into a soul legend with his debut record, Just as I Am.
When Withers began recording Just as I Am, he was still working in the Weber Aircraft factory in California; that picture on the album’s cover was literally shot during his lunch break. A year later, after being nominated for three Grammys and winning one (Best Rhythm & Blues Song for “Ain’t No Sunshine”), Withers told The New York Times the whole music thing was simply “a phase.”
Fast forward to 1985, and Withers walked away from the music industry, choosing not to re-sign with a record label or make another album. He wanted to return to his “regular guy” life as a husband and a father. Yet for all his insistence on remaining an average joe, he’d earned four more Grammy nods and another two trophies over his career.
In the Season 14 premiere of The Opus, Hopkins details how the blue-collar life of one of the smoothest and most recognizable voices in soul led to a legendary debut album. Joining her are guests including Jon Batiste, José James, Aloe Blacc, Phil Cook, and more.
Original music by Tony Piazza.
If you missed past seasons of the series, you can find a full archive of The Opus here. You can also enter to win a Bill Withers prize pack, which includes vinyl, a Gibson guitar, and a Sony sound system and turntable, and headphones.