Willie Dixon – Bassist, Singer and Composer – Born July 1, 1915
Today is the 101st anniversary of the birth of Willie Dixon(July 1, 1915 – January 29, 1992) and I bet somewhere on almost every night of the year someone is playing one of the 500 songs that he wrote! It could be a jazz, blues or rock artist because Willie’s songs appeal to lovers of many genres. He was one of the two artists, the other Muddy Waters, that were the most influential in shaping the sound of Chicago blues in the post World War II years, as well as, rock and roll in the 50s and 60s. I think that my first introduction to the blues of Dixon was Cream’s cover of “Spoonful”, wait maybe it was The Doors “Back Door Man” or maybe Led Zeppelin “I Can’t Quit You” but it was probably Johnnie Rivers covering “Seventh Son” and I didn’t even know it!! Well, you get the picture. Here’s a link to a list songs of Willie Dixon, along with the artists who cover them!! From Wikipedia some of the songs…..
“Hoochie Coochie Man“, “I Just Want to Make Love to You”, “Little Red Rooster“, “My Babe”, “Spoonful”, and “You Can’t Judge a Book by the Cover“. These tunes were written during the peak of Chess Records, 1950–1965, and performed by Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, and Bo Diddley; they influenced a worldwide generation of musicians.
Dixon also was an important link between the blues and rock and roll, working with Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley in the late 1950s. His songs were covered by some of the biggest artists of more recent times, such as Bob Dylan, Cream, Jeff Beck, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, and The Rolling Stones.
In reading Dixon’s biography this morning at Wikipedia I learned a several things that I didn’t know about Willie
as a boxer he won the Illinois State Golden Gloves Heavyweight Championship (Novice Division) in 1937.Dixon turned professional as a boxer and worked briefly as Joe Louis’ sparring partner
Dixon met Leonard Caston at the boxing gym where they would harmonize at times. Caston built him his first bass, made of a tin can and one string.
Dixon’s progress on the Upright bass came to an abrupt halt during the advent of World War II when he resisted the draft as a conscientious objector and was imprisoned for ten months.
In 1987, Dixon received an out-of-court settlement from Led Zeppelin after suing them for plagiarism, in relation to their use of his music for “Bring It On Home” and his lyrics from his composition “You Need Love” (1962) for their track “Whole Lotta Love”.
Dixon’s health deteriorated increasingly during the seventies and the eighties, primarily due to long-term diabetes. Eventually one of his legs had to be amputated More at Wikipedia
Willie left us in body on January 29, 1992 when he died of heart failure in Burbank, California but through those 500 songs that he left us, he will always be with us!
Here’s Willie performing “Back Door Man”, “Seventh Son” and “Hoochie, Coochie Man” at a Muddy Waters Tribute in 1983!! So Happy Birthday, Willie Dixon, wherever you and Muddy and Howlin’ Wolf are singing tonight!!
Links for Further Explorations of Willie Dixon