Saturday, June 04, 2011

Be somebody people can lean on

This performance was from 1988. The song was originally a hit in 1972 for Bill Withers and hit #1 again in 1989 for a band called Club Nouveau. This version is by a Lutheran Elementary Principal, Paul Hill. I heard Hill when he spoke at a chapel at Concordia University in Nebraska back in the 90's.

Hill was a session musician before becoming a Christian school teacher. Legend has it that as a young man, he played back up on Jim Croce's "Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown." After listening to it, his mother broke the gold record he'd received for it. Another is that he helped Bill Withers write Lean on Me. Whether he did or not, he did write additional verses (as you can hear in this video).

Paul Hill overcame a debilitating stutter to become a first grade teacher, and elementary principal, and a motivational speaker and musician. He explained that the only two times he didn't stutter at all, were while teaching first graders and singing.

I understand that he passed away in 2009. I only heard him the one time but a few things still influence me. That you can do all things with God's help (Philippians 4:13) no matter what challenges you face. Do everything you do for the Lord (Colossians 3:23) and, we should all do like this song says, and support others when they need it (1 Thessalonians 5:11). It seems to me that these three things can make life a whole lot better.

This song really speaks about what communities can and should be, encouraging, supportive, and nurturing. Whether you're a teacher or not, you can be available for others. Maybe as a mentor to someone younger, a mentee for someone older. Maybe as a sibling or cousin, niece or nephew. Maybe just as a friend or a neighbor. Can you listen? Can you be patient and positive? Do you have compassion or empathy? Then you can be some one that others can lean on.


  1. Anonymous11:08 PM

    I met Paul Hill when I was just six years old. He came to my school and invited me up to the piano to sing with him. He inspired me in so many ways. I still carry his cassette tapes as they send out a beautiful message.

  2. I toured with Lutheran Youth Encounter and played on stage with Paul Hill. I first met him in 1987. He was an incredible musician and an even more incredible liar.
    I am so mad that he lied to me and had me spreading "the lie" that he was the composer of so many songs. He told me he wrote Lean on Me, The Greatest Love of All for Whitney Houston, co-wrote Hello for Lionel Ritchie, wrote Bad Bad Leroy Brown and followed it up with a web of deception.
    Anger! That is what I feel. I heard he passed away but you know what. I could care less after all the lies he spread to thousands upon thousands of people.

  3. Anonymous1:15 AM

    Kurt, are you talking about Paul Hill while in Southern California? I had a similar experience with him at that time as you explain. It goes even deeper, more shameful.

  4. Anonymous1:41 PM

    don't hate his message. the message of the songs is the messge of God. Remember he was a man like the rest of us, prone to the temptations we all face. Maybe he did assist with some of those songs as a studio musician, maybe not. But dont throw out the message just because of the messenger.

  5. Holly Hagelin9:14 PM

    I met Paul Hill six or seven times, at Virginia Beach Youth Congresses and at performances here in MD. I heard (early in 2010) that he had died and I can't believe there isn't ANY info on him or his ministry on the net. . . it's like he's disappeared totally from existance !!. . . UNTIL I found this video, which I will keep and treasure and show to the now grown up members of our youth group.
    Paul was one of a kind, had a wicked sense of humor and always made time to talk to the kids.
    I miss him a lot, but look forward to throwing my arms around his neck and hugging him when I get to heaven.
    Then I'm going to get him to sing "I'm Thankful!" and try to hold "THANKFULLLLLLLLLLLLLL' for as long as he could!!!!!! maybe this time I'll do it!

    1. I have posted a video of him singing "I'm Thanksful" on my YouTube account. Search YouTube for 3catowner and you will find it. Alan Lutz

    2. I did a search for Paul Hill, Lutheran Teacher, and found this web site. I now realize this it MY youtube link you are sharing here. I have the VHS tape of this performance and transferred it to digital so I could upload it here. I did not attend this performance but knew Paul Hill personally. I was also a Lutheran Teacher at the time. We met several times from 1968 to the last time I saw him about 2007. He did have a stutter but it always disappeared when he sang. He WAS great with the kids. After the last performance at my school chapel around 2007, he came by the campus and chatted up with the kids a lot. He may have exagerated about all his song writing. He apparently had a dark side we don't know a lot about. But he also had a great ministry for the homeless after he was held up but promised them more help if they would come to his hotel the next day. Wish I had more details. Anyway, some of you above said you played with him, etc. One of his favorite stage tricks was to stop in the middle of a song and come into the audience and greet some long lost friend. The first time he did this, I was the MC for his show and we weren't that great friends. The next time, I was in the audience and he came and greeted me as if I were his long lost buddy. Very much fun. God Bless you Paul, wherever you are in the Kingdom.