Although he writes lyrics that are easy to understand, Withers describes himself as a "Lyrics Snob." He explains: "It's very difficult to make things simple and understandable. You ever sit down and have a conversation with somebody who took their formal education too seriously, and they're speaking and throwing in a bunch of words that you don't have a ready meaning for?
You're sitting there nodding because you don't want them to think you're stupid, but what you really think is, there's a lot of easier ways to say it, and you wonder if they even know what they're talking about or if they're just showing off. To me, the biggest challenge in the world is to take anything that's complicated and make it simple so it can be understood by the masses. Somebody said a long time ago that the world was designed by geniuses, but it's run by idiots.
I'm a stickler for saying something the simplest possible way with some elements of poetry. Simple is memorable. If something's too complicated, you're not going to walk around humming it to yourself because it's too hard to remember. The key is to make somebody not only remember it, but recall it over and over and over again. When you mention that some stuff I have written has lasted a long time, I think that's because it's re-accessible.
That's why the simpler forms of music, which are my favorites, like country music and the blues and stuff that states something in a way that everybody can understand and you remember it. There are lines that are so profound, like 'The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face
,' or Billy Joel's 'I love you just the way you are.' I heard this country song the other day that really stuck to my ribs, and it was just a simple phrase - 'And when the time comes for you to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance.' You can't say that any better. When I say I'm a snob lyrically, that means, how clear can you make it and in how few words."