Who knew soul legend Bill Withers’ death at the end of March would lead to an all-star Canadian charity cover of his seminal song, Lean On Me?
It was Toronto-based singer-songwriter Tyler Shaw who immediately felt the impulse to cover Withers’ 1972 hit. With help from friend and fellow artist Fefe Dobson, it evolved quickly to becoming a fundraising effort to fight COVID-19 through the Canadian Red Cross.
Guitarist Dan Kanter is also credited as a musical ambassador for the project.
“I was just re-reading the lyrics and it’s just such a meaningful written song,” said Shaw, 27, originally from Coquitlam, B.C.
“And it really dawned on me that it would resonate well with what Canada’s going through right now, what the world is going through right now, with COVID-19. It all happened in a matter of a minute where I was like, ‘I need to cover this but wait this could be something way more.’”
About 25 Canadian artists ended up on the single, produced by Jon Levine (Philosopher Kings), including Avril Lavigne, Bryan Adams, Geddy Lee, Jann Arden, Justin Bieber, Michael Bublé, Sarah McLachlan, Serena Ryder and Walk Off The Earth, under the collective banner ArtistsCAN.
The video of the charity single debuted Sunday night towards the end of the multi-channel TV special, Stronger Together, which aired to raise money for food banks and frontline workers.
The song is available on all digital retail platforms.
“It’s been a crazy three weeks but we’ve done it,” said Shaw. “Thankfully, it’s 2020 and we have the technology to record at home, be it on an iPhone or a home studio set up, and send audio files over email.”
Fundraising aside, Shaw wants the charity single to give people “a little hope.
“As Canadians, I feel with this song, we should be able to call a friend and lean on each other.”