“You taught me so much about how to keep it simple and real. I felt such a kinship with you even before we met,” Timberlake wrote on Instagram.
“Your words and melodies… the chords that accompanied them… they reached into my soul and spoke to me so deeply. That’s what your music did. It brought so many of us closer to you and to each other.”
Timberlake has long professed his love of Withers’ music, and has previously admitted that his own hit “Can’t Stop the Feeling” was inspired by Withers’ classic “Lovely Day”; Timberlake played a medley of the two tracks at the 2017 Oscars.
During Timberlake’s lengthy hiatus between 2006’s FutureSexLoveSounds and 2013’s The 20/20 Experience, he spoke about the impact Withers and the documentary Still Bill had on his career. “I’ve never watched anything else that I felt was someone speaking not just to me but for me. He puts into words exactly how I feel about music,” Timberlake told Playboy in 2011.
The two singers also took part in an ASCAP onstage conversation in 2010, and in 2017, Timberlake appeared alongside Withers at a Songwriters Hall of Fame event, as Timberlake alludes to in his Instagram post.
“And, to actually know you was truly something special. You shined a light that was so unique and warm,” Timberlake continued. “I looked up to you the same way I looked up to my Poppa… and he was my favorite human in the world. You have always been one of the greatest and will forever be. I will miss your jokes and I will never forget your advice to me about music… ‘How does it make you FEEL? That’s the only question you have to answer.’”
Read Timberlake’s full remembrance below and see footage of Withers’ Songwriters Hall of Fame conversation with Timberlake: