Joel Harper ’95 and 玛西亚J. Withers ’74 Honor Musician Bill Withers and Grandmas Everywhere

Joel Harper holds up the 书 Grandma’s Hands with one hand and points to the cover with the other hand. The front cover features an illustration of a little boy with his grandmother’s arms embracing him. Harper has short dark hair and wears sunglasses and a long-sleeved blue shirt.
Joel Harper ’95 with a copy of “Grandma’s Hands”

In 1971, Grammy-winning musician Bill Withers wrote the song “Grandma’s Hands” in honor of his maternal grandmother. The heartwarming musical tribute reached No. 18 on the Best-Selling Soul Singles chart and No. 42 on the Billboard Hot 100. Fifty years later, two Pitzer alumni have helped adapt it into a children’s 书.

Joel Harper ’95 and his company, Freedom Three Publishing, collaborated with the late Bill Withers’ wife, 玛西亚J. Withers ’74, and illustrator R. Gregory Christie to bring the song alive in a picture 书 of the same name.

“The timeless message of ‘Grandma’s Hands’ highlights the impact our elders have on shaping who we become,哈珀说。. “Our collaboration aims to introduce Bill’s music and legacy to new generations.”

Harper has a strong family heritage in music. 他的祖父母, Charles and Dorothy Chase, opened the Folk Music Center in Claremont in 1958, 还有他的母亲, 艾伦·哈珀87届, currently runs the store. Joel Harper has made music a running theme in his writing.

Harper connected with the Withers family when he sent a copy of his 书 “Frankie Finds the Blues” via a fan mail address in 2018. Harper cited Bill Withers as a musical and personal inspiration. 玛西亚J. Withers reached out to Harper to express appreciation, and as they talked more, they discovered a Pitzer connection. Withers knew Harper’s father, 伦纳德·哈珀, who was working in Pitzer’s financial aid office when she was a student.

“My father had a passion for actively recruiting students to Pitzer College who showed educational promise but did not have the economic means to attend Pitzer and ensuring they had the financial support needed,哈珀说。. “And now here we are—a dream come true!”

Bill Withers wrote many award-winning hit songs, including “Lean on Me” and “Ain’t No Sunshine”

The 书 “Grandma’s Hands” illustrates Bill Withers’ soulful lyrics, immersing readers in the loving warmth and comfort that his grandmother shared with her grandson and community.

Harper considers his partnership with the Withers family and R. Gregory Christie “a magical, mystical experience” and has “zero doubt our loved ones are all in on this, conspiring to remind us they are right here with us!”

You can click here to see the animated video for “Grandma’s Hands,” which uses illustrations from the 书 and a new version of the song with Bill and Marcia’s daughter Kori. The 书 is available on 亚马逊, Brigham Distributing, and the Playing for Change website store.

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