This is one of those songs that I have always loved purely for the wonderful music, without ever thinking much about the lyrics. It's a shame really, because today I realised how poignant they are. With such glorious harmonies and a smooth, slow feel to the music, one would expect it to be a soppy love ballad. However, this is a song all about friendship.
You know those friends you go to when you're feeling down? The ones who you can always rely on to listen to your problems and give you advice? I suppose it would not be revolutionary for me to suggest that this song is about those people. But that's not really the point of this write up - I want to discuss the lesson that I learnt from this song.
Listening to the song whilst reading the lyrics made me think about "those friends". The lines "For it won't be long //
Til I'm gonna need somebody to lean on" were what really stuck out for me. It made me realise that in all aspects of friendship things have to work both ways. There will be times when you are the one who is feeling happy and content, and it is your friend who "needs somebody to lean on". In my own (rather selfish) case I realised that I have tended not to fulfil my side of the bargain.
I don't want to be too personal in this write up, as I feel there is a lesson contained within this song that many of us could learn from. But to put it into perspective, I've been pretty unhappy recently. It's funny, because I know there are others with far greater difficulties in their lives, but it is so hard for me to think about anything other than my problems at the moment. I reached that stage where even hearing a happy song just made me feel sick.
One friend has really listened to me and helped me along. It's nice to know that you can share your problems with someone else - it keeps you going. We are old friends who had drifted apart over the last few years, yet this has brought us closer together again. My other friends have simply not been as interested in my issues, for various reasons (not that I hold it against them).
The point I am making is that you must give your friends' problems as much credence and priority as your own, or they will begin not to return the favour. Bill Withers, in Lean On Me, is offering his support to his friend (his "brother"); we must be prepared to put ourselves in this position when our friends are stuck in a rut. When you are in need of a shoulder to cry on, you will be thankful that you did.