Sunday, September 11, 2011

Still Bill: a from-the-heart patriot, Bill Withers

Bill Withers, singer/songwriter, burst onto the pop music scene in 1971 with his No. 1 record "Ain't No Sunshine" - followed by "Grandma's Hands," "Lean on Me," "Use Me," and in 1979, "Just the Two of Us." All of these songs have become American classics and have been covered by many other singers and musicians. Bill had a very successful performing and recording career from 1970 to 1985, when he began a hiatus of sorts which has lasted to the present day, choosing to concentrate on family.

He recently released a film, Still Bill, in which he pointedly addresses his reasons for stepping out of the limelight [not only family, but also his lessened need to be affirmed as a performer and his disillusionment with the recording industry]. Royalties have made him comfortable, a euphemism used by his wife in the movie and, I've noticed, by people who are modest about their wealth. Much of the movie is filmed in his home and recording studio overlooking a panoramic Los Angeles. In the movie, he sends a son off to law school and watches his daughter record her work; he seems happy and grateful that his shot at the top had a memorable impact and gave him a nice life.


After watching Still Bill, I was compelled to cast Bill's chart. His songs/lyrics always impressed me as wonderful, plainspoken, vulnerable, idiomatic, metaphoric, homespun, and they stuck in my head. My son, whom I raised as a single parent, loved "Just the Two of Us," and once turned to me and said, "That's us, mom." Bill Withers' songs are not restricted to romantic love but encompass the tenderness of familial, companionate and patriotic love.

I was not at all surprised when I saw his birthdate as July 4, 1938. More than a few patriots who have captured the hearts of the American public were born with their natal Sun conjunct America's natal Sun.

Anyone born July 2nd-6th has the potential to embody something uniquely American. George W. Bush [July 6], Sylvester Stallone [ July 6], Calvin Coolidge, movie mogul Louis B . Mayer, conductor Mitch Miller, Ann Landers and her twin Abigail Van Buren, Neil Simon, George Steinbrenner, Geraldo Rivera, financier Michael Milken, anti-war activist Ron Kovic, and First Daughter Malia Obama were born July 4th. Bill served nine years in the Navy, further marking his patriotism.

Stationed abroad, he developed his singing and songwriting. When he returned, he moved to LA to pursue music, making toilets for Boeing 747s while composing songs in his head. Mars rules mechanical ability, ego, aggression, sexual drive, individuality, survival, courage, competition, war, stamina, and vigor.


Bill's Sun conjunct n. Mars, a marker of tremendous energy and self-assertion, is part of a stellium in sensitive, feeling Cancer: Sun, Mars, Mercury, Pluto and Chiron. This heightens the impact of whatever he initiates and the impact of events happening to him. Stelliums [I have five placements in my 5th house] get magnified impact from transits, either good or problematic. Chiron, the Wounded Healer, shows in the soothing wisdom in his lyrics.


The Sun-Mars duo gets further dominance because it is the focal point of two geometric patterns. In the first, it forms a T-square with a Moon-Saturn opposition. This is an aspect of tremendous tension; involving the Moon, it points to a hardscrabble childhood. The youngest of 13 children in a coal-mining town, Bill was three when his parents separated and 13 when his father died. In Still Bill, he talks of being ridiculed as a child because he stuttered. Also, he was asthmatic. Yet he celebrates these roots in his lyrics and in interviews. A hearty survivor.


In the second geometric pattern, the Sun-Mars also sextiles Uranus [innovation] which trines Neptune [creativity, illusion, sorrow, deception]. Sextiles relate to friends, neighbors, childhood activities, opportunities, as well as Mercurian matters like writing and hand dexterity. Mini-trines are helpful and often involve friends giving good advice or a leg up. Clarence Avant, a powerhouse for artists and black music, signed Bill in 1971, and appears in Still Bill talking positively about Bill.


What interests me most is the hiatus, his leaving show biz and the limelight, and his storied feuds with record industry execs trying to alter his music. He was quoted in The New Yorker of 3.8.10: "“You gonna tell me the history of the blues? I am the goddam blues. Look at me. Shit. I’m from West Virginia, I’m the first man in my family not to work in the coal mines, my mother scrubbed floors on her knees for a living, and you’re going to tell me about the goddam blues because you read some book written by John Hammond? Kiss my ass.”

Well said, Bill. Perfect manifestation of the Sun/Mars and his Mercury conj. Pluto in Cancer. Nobody's going to tell him.


For the astrological indicators for the hiatus, I turn to his fixed stars.

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