Marcia Johnson was Bill Withers’ wife for 44 years. The couple had two children together, Todd and Kori. Withers and Johnson married on New Year’s Eve in 1976.
Withers was previously married to actress Denise Nicholas.
On March 30, Withers passed away in Los Angeles due to heart issues. He was 81 years old.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Johnson Is In Charge of Licensing Her Husband’s Music
During Withers’ long and successful career, Johnson served as her husband’s manager. In a 2015 interview with Rolling Stone, Johnson said she ran the Bill Withers business out of an office on Sunset Boulevard. Withers described the operation as a “mom and pop shop,” adding, “She’s my only overseer. I’m lucky I married a woman with an MBA.”
Johnson spoke about some of the rationales for licensing Withers’ music. “If it’s for a scene in a show where somebody is killed or something, we will turn them down. We don’t want people to associate, say, ‘Lean on Me’ with violence,” she said.
2. Johnson Said in 2015 That Withers No Longer Even Sang in the Shower
In the 2015 Rolling Stone interview, Johnson described her husband’s hobbies, saying, “I really have no idea what he does all day. But he does a lot on his iPad. He always knows exactly what’s going on in the world. Whenever I mention anything, he says, ‘Oh, that’s old news.’” Previously, Johnson told Rolling Stone that Withers no longer even sang in the shower. Johnson also said Withers wrote a song for Denzel Washington to use in a movie but later decided against performing it.
Johnson told The Daily Telegraph in an August 2010 interview that Withers had recorded new music but was reluctant to release it or to tour. Johnson said, “When I say that millions of people would love to see him perform those classic tunes, he says, ‘Yeah, and if I wasn’t very good, they’d tear into me. And I don’t need that.’”
3. Johnson Is on the Board of the Stuttering Charity, SAY
Both Withers and Marcia were active in the charity The Stuttering Association for the Young (SAY). Withers grew up with a stutter. According to SAY’s website, Johnson is a board member of the charity.
In 2015, a tribute concert to Withers was staged at Carnegie Hall in New York City to benefit SAY. Johnson told the Village Voice that “initially Bill was bemused by the idea. He seriously wondered whether anyone would show up.”
4. The Couple Met at a Gil Scott Heron Show in 1976 & Johnson Didn’t Know Who Withers Was
According to the 2009 documentary Still Bill, produced by Johnson, the couple met the same year they got married, in 1976. Their first meeting took place at a Gil Scott Heron concert. At the time, Johnson did not know who Withers was.
Johnson is a graduate of UCLA’s Graduate School of Management. Prior to running Withers’ music business, she worked for Management III and Concerts West.
5. Withers Withdrew From Music in 1985 to Spend More Time With His Family
Withers said he withdrew from music and public life in the 1980s in order to spend more time with his family. Withers said in a 2015 interview with Garden & Gun that the decision was made when record executives pitched him ideas including covering Elvis Presley songs. Withers said, “Get the hell out of here. I got tired of it. Most of my dreams came true and some of my nightmares, too. I had a pretty good run. And by then I had a family and some kids, so I went about trying to do a good job at that. Without even thinking about it, I just went ahead with my life.”