The Stutterer’s Song: Remembering Bill Withers

Emily Lordi at The Point:

The “I know” is a stutter. It is a stutter that couldn’t be steadier. And the obsessive circularity it winds into the song produces new layers of meaning. In the romantic reading, which is the one on the surface, it only feels like she’s “always gone too long” because that is the nature of love. But it is also possible that the woman really stays away for long stretches at a time—maybe because, like the woman in “Use Me,” she just doesn’t love him that much. Or maybe, thinking ahead to the abusive control Withers expresses on “Who is He (And What is He to You)?”—and, biographically, to the domestic violence that marked his relationship with his first wife, Denise Nicholas—he keeps driving her away. Maybe she leaves to take refuge from him, and the “darkness” he feels in her absence is not only loneliness but guilt. The repeated “I know” opens up alternate meanings, because it is a spiral of knowing that is also not-knowing, or denial. In short, if this is a stutter, it makes the song more articulate; makes it say more, not less.

more here.