Raul Midon. | VALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty ImagesBy Brian Mansfield/Gannett News Service
The 2009 documentary “Still Bill” shows R&B great Bill Withers writing a song called “Mi Amigo Cubano” with singer and guitarist Raul Midón.
Fans have wondered about the song’s fate for years, since the reclusive Withers, whose hits include “Ain’t No Sunshine,” “Use Me” and “Lean on Me,” hasn’t released an album since 1985.
It’s finally here.
“Mi Amigo Cubano” will appear on Midón’s Sept. 30 album “Don’t Hesitate.”Midón will perform at Ravinia on Saturday as part of a daylong Food Network event.
“When Bill Withers called and told me that he wanted to write a song with me I was stunned,” says the blind multi-instrumentalist, 48. “I was further befuddled when he said ‘I want to write it in Spanish.’ “
Midón, who also plays guitar on the track, says the idea of the song came from Withers. “He had this buddy that he used to work with, and they got a lot of pleasure from working together with their hands. ‘Mi Amigo Cubano’ is about rekindling the memory of an old friendship.”
“My role in the writing process was largely that of translator. He would tell me ‘I want to say I miss you, or how is your wife’ and I made it work in Spanish. We worked on the song for a couple of days and then recorded a mock-up on the keyboard and I played guitar on it. Then I forgot about it for a while.
“One day in 2013 he called my house and spoke with my wife, Kathleen. ‘When is Raul gonna finish that song?’ When I listened to it again, I thought, this is really good and it’s quintessential Bill Withers. But in Spanish; it’s ‘Lean On Me,’ or ‘Lovely Day’ or ‘Grandma’s Hands.’ It seems to me that Bill expresses, in all of these songs, the unadulterated joy that human beings bring to each other just by being who they are.”