FROM LITTLE RED ROOSTER TO HOOCHIE COOCHIE MAN: Reflections On Willie Dixon, Blues’ Biggest Songwriter, At 100

Blues songwriter, bassist, producer, singer, and all-around titan died on this date in 1992 — less than a decade after he became my first major interview as a wet-behind-the-ears journalist thrilled and petrified at the prospect of talking to this giant of the blues. Each of Dixon’s songs has, over time, become a beloved standard of the blues canon, having been recorded and covered by the likes of the aforementioned Waters and Wolf, but also by the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix, Small Faces, Cream, Led Zeppelin, the Doors, Grateful Dead, among many others. Each of these songs sound like planets unto themselves, possessing worlds and works of poetry, myth, magic, humor, pathos, immediacy, timelessness. And Willie wrote them all, each and every one. In a sense, Willie Dixon was the Big Bang of the modern universe of blues.

RPM: Jonathan Perry's Life in Analog

williedixon2“RPM” is pausing to reflect on the Centennial of the birth of Willie Dixon, surely the greatest and single most important songwriter of modern blues, as well as an ace bassist-producer-arranger-session man, who would have turned 100 today (after battling diabetes for many years, he died of heart failure at the age of 76 in 1992).

I’m proud to say that Willie Dixon was my first-ever big-time interview of a big-time musician (and personal hero). I was a 21-year-old college student writing for my town’s daily and weekly newspapers,  and I heard that Willie was bringing his band to the famed folk and blues coffeehouse-club, The Iron Horse, in Northampton in  the summer of 1985. And although I really had no idea how to go about it, I remember calling the venue he was to appear at to get the ball rolling and request a conversation with this most prolific…

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One comment

  1. Willie’s legacy is really interesting. John Sinclair as a great poem about him, referring to Willie as “the bard of Vicksburg.” I got to hear him live a few time, as well, even after he’d lost a leg to diabetes. Thanks for writing about the big boss bassman!

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