What ever happened to Bill Withers? The soul singer, who wrote such pop classics as Lean On Me and Ain’t No Sunshine, vanished from the spot­light in the mid-’80s.

Speaking to him roughly 25 years later, it’s clear Withers was never built for the fame that his insightful lyrics and smooth, soothing voice garnered.

“I’m just not given to trying to make every time I do something a national holiday,” he says, matter-of-factly. “It’s just not my personality and maybe it should be, but (this has) worked for me so far.”

Withers is back in the public eye to promote Soul Power, a documentary of the 1974 music festival in Kinshasa — the then-capital of Zaire and now-capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo — which was staged as a prelude to the Rumble in the Jungle.

Alongside legends like James Brown and BB King among others, Withers performed for the local crowds prior to the infamous fight between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman.

Looking back on the fight itself, Withers doesn’t mince words.

“Let’s call it what it is — I’ve heard people try to assign these huge political significances to it, but it was a human version of a cockfight,” he says. “Two guys going to beat each other up at four o’clock in the morning in a Third World country, I don’t know how important that is.”

Following a nine-year stint in the navy, Withers spent the 1970s as a well-known figure in the music business. He acquired the trappings of fame, yet apparently held onto his pragmatic, grounded nature.

In the last few years he’s contributed songs to a handful of projects, and in the recent documentary Still Bill, you can see he’s still at work.

But if you’re waiting for a comeback, don’t hold your breath — Withers has no urge to re-enter the entertainment world in a big way, even if others are trying pull him out of retirement.

“If you work at the post office and you’re 65 years old, and you’re kind of winding down, people look at that as normal,” says Withers, who is 71.

“Once you’ve been an entertainer and you’re 70 years old, somebody wants to know how come you ain’t packing up your bags, getting the band together and heading to Philadelphia.

“It’s like some 62-year-old actress with cellulite, walking around with a mini skirt on, you know. It’s unbecoming. ‘C’mon sugar, let’s get real.’”

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