Archive Aural: Who Is He (And What Is He To You)? by Bill Withers

This 1972 Bill Withers track about jealousy is written from the perspective of a cuckolded man. Bill sings of walking down the street with his girl, and being stared down by a man they pass: ‘Ahh, somethin’ in my heart and in your eye/ Tells me he’s not someone just passin’ by….And now when I add the sum of you and me/ I get confused and I keep comin’ up with three.’

An irresistible rhythm, funky bass and well-placed wah-wah make this a surprisingly sexy song considering its subject. There’s something menacing about its driving bassline, and palpable strain in the string section, and yet it comes across as darkly passionate too, thanks to the tensions bubbling under the surface between the woman and her two lovers, and between the two men themselves. These observational lines are frankly genius: ‘Well, you tell me men don’t have much intuition/ Is that what you really thinkin’ girl, or are you wishing?’

As Withers told Mojo in 2003: “[Chi-Lites contributor] Stan McKenny sent those lyrics to me in the mail. I’ve gotten a gazillion things in the mail and that’s the only one I’ve ever done something with, because I could see it. If I don’t see it, it doesn’t occur to me, so I don’t attempt to say it.”  Cliterati is very thankful that he did.

Who Is He (And What Is He To You)?

Bill Withers Official Website

 

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