Still Bill (2009)

While reading this Justin Timberlake interview I ran across a Bill Withers documentary called Still Bill. Here's what Justin Timberlake had to say about the film, and what it meant to him -


TIMBERLAKE: You should watch the documentary Still Bill.

PLAYBOY: That’s the Bill Withers documentary, right?

TIMBERLAKE: Yeah, and I’ve never watched anything else that made me feel someone was speaking not just to me but for me. He puts into words exactly how I feel about music. People asked Bill Withers all the time, “Why did you stop doing music?” Which is what I get asked all the time too. He said, “I don’t know what to say, because I didn’t stop doing music. I just started doing something else.” He also quoted Thoreau: “The mass of men live lives of quiet desperation.” Only Bill added, “I want to know what it feels like for my desperation to get louder.”

PLAYBOY: What does that mean to you?

TIMBERLAKE: Well, I relate to that because it means you need inspiration, you need to hear something loud inside yourself before you can create anything. Unfortunately, the business of music is what taints an artist’s desire to make music. I don’t want to paint a picture of being jaded, because I love making music. I honestly love it. But there is a level where making music becomes a total life-sucking commitment. For instance, to do an album and a tour, you have to be absolutely certain that whatever you have to say is from the heart, because you’re going to say it a thousand times—and on nights when you don’t feel like performing. You need to feel inspiration to get to a level where you’re performing like that. But I haven’t felt that level of conviction the past few years. And without that conviction it’s crazy to put yourself out there.

After watching the documentary, I couldn't agree more. The film features Withers imparting short bits of his own philosophy that seems amazingly pragmatic but not void of any of the emotion that sometimes pragmatism lacks. It was heartening to see a man who achieved so much in life seem thankful for it, but never seem like he felt he deserved it or that it was owed to him. Withers struggled as a child with stuttering, came from humble beginnings in a coal-mining town in West Virginia and worked as a factory worker before stepping into fame as a musician - and I think that lent a lot to his ability to make the most of his life instead of expecting the most from his life.


At one point he remarks, ""On the way to wonderful, you'll pass through all right. Stop and take a look around, because that's where you may be staying." As I move forward into my own career, I can happily take solace in this advice. I still plan on aiming at "wonderful" but I'm happy to take a look around and "alright" and appreciate it on its own terms. In any case, the film comes highly recommended.