The most influential songwriter of the 20th Century that you don’t know.

Willie Dixon- The man who sold the blues.

Res00 | 23-12-2022

Willie Dixon was born in the 1915 Mississippi. In his early life he was a heavy weight boxer, though he rapidly turned to music, eventually becoming one of the most prolific and influential song writers of the 20th century. Despite earning a Grammy in 1989 for his album “Hidden Charms” and his posthumous induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of fame in 1994, he is little known compared to those who recorded, borrowed, and sometimes stole his music. Such was his craft, that he’s music has been reinterpreted by generation after generation. He was a spark behind UK popular music in the 60s and 70s. When it is said that the blues was reappropriated or stolen, he was the main man from which it was stolen from. Willie Dixon was simply the most plagiarised and imitated musician/ song writer of the 20th Century. Dixon met Leonard Canston in a Chicago boxing gym who persuaded him to pursue his musical career and together they founded the Five Breezes in 1939 and later formed several other groups in the pre- war period. Post war he was the driver of the Chicago blues scene. In the early 50s and 60s, he was highly prolific and made many recordings with numerous legends including Muddy Waters, Otis Rush, Chuck Berry and Howlin Wolf. In 1969 when Fleetwood mac recorded their blues in Chicago’s session, he was the bass player on some of the recorded tracks. His legacy though as a writer far outstrips his history as a performing artist. In 1964 The Rolling Stone reached number one on the UK chart with their recording of Dixon’s "Little Red Rooster". They also recorded Dixon’s “I just want to make love to you”. Part of Led Zeppelins first two albums were based on his music, and he successfully litigated the group for stolen lyrics and music on the tracks, reaching an out of court settlement with Led Zeppelin. He is co-credited for writing the Led Zeppelin anthem “Whole Lotta Love” with lyrics based on his 1962 recording “You need love” and for music on the Led Zeppelin track “Bring it on home”. He recorded over 500 songs, of which over 68 where re-recorded or re-performed by countless diverse artist, including Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, The Doors Fleetwood Mac, Tina Turner, Tori Amos, Prince, Mary J Blige, Sting, Jimi Hendrix, Motorhead, PJ Harvey, Megadeth and The White Stripes, to name but a few. In total, songs that he has written have been covered a staggering 1800 times. His most re-recorded tracks are “You need love” (136 artists), “Just make love to me” (133 artists), ”I’m your hoochie coohie man” (149 artists), “Little red Rooster” (112 artists) and “Spoonful” (101 artists). Nine of these recordings took place in 2022! ‘Shake for me,’ written by Dixon and originally performed by Howlin Wolf Was re-recorded by renowned blues guitar player Stevie Ray Vaughn and really stands out from all of Stevie’s other pieces for its catchiness, drive and danceability. He was a clever lyricist who knew how to toe the line, getting his message across within the limit of what could or couldn’t be said. In later years he created the blues foundation which strove to support blue artists to secure copyright and royalties for their own work. Dixon died in 1992 as a little-known giant of the music industry and his vast legacy is still with us today.