Lean On Me and Ain't No Sunshine singer-songwriter Bill Withers dies, aged 81

US singer-songwriter Bill Withers, whose hits included Lean On Me and Ain't No Sunshine, has died aged 81, his family said.

The three-time Grammy Award winner, who withdrew from making music in the mid-1980s, died on Monday in Los Angeles, the statement said.

His death comes as the public has drawn inspiration from his music during the coronavirus pandemic, with health care workers, choirs, artists and more posting their own renditions on Lean on Me to help get through the uncertain times.

In a statement, the family said: "We are devastated by the loss of our beloved, devoted husband and father."

The statement continued: "A solitary man with a heart driven to connect to the world at large, with his poetry and music, he spoke honestly to people and connected them to each other."

"As private a life as he lived close to intimate family and friends, his music forever belongs to the world. In this difficult time, we pray his music offers comfort and entertainment as fans hold tight to loved ones."

Bill Withers speaks at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in 2015. Credit: AP

Withers was awarded Grammys as a songwriter for “Ain’t No Sunshine” in 1971 and for “Just The Two Of Us” in 1981.

In 1987, Bill received his ninth Grammy nomination and third Grammy as a songwriter for the re-recording of the 1972 hit Lean On Me.

He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015 by Stevie Wonder. Withers thanked his wife as well as the R&B pioneers who helped his career like Ray Jackson, Al Bell and Booker T. Jones.

His death caused a torrent of tributes on social media, including from John Legend, who said he was: "Mourning the loss of my friend and inspiration, Bill Withers."

Lin-Manuel Miranda was among those paying tribute, writing: "Rest In Peace, maestro Bill Withers. What a legacy."

Chic's Nile Rodgers described him as "class, class and more class".

"My soul always has and always will be full of your music. Your humility displayed and depth of your power as you carried us all to a better place," singer Lenny Kravitz said on social media in a touching tribute.

Country singer and rapper Kid Rock also tweeted: "What an incredible talent and genuine soul. He will be missed by so many."

Chance The Rapper also paid tribute to the soul singer saying: "My heart really hurts for him, it reminds me of playing records with at my grandma’s house."