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Willie Dixon biography

Born: July 1, 1915, Vicksburg, Mississippi

Died: January 29, 1992, Burbank, California

Willie Dixon is best known for his songwriting prowess, although his influence on the blues includes his superb work as a producer, arranger, session musician and performer. Dixon began performing in Chicago in the late 1930s; his career was interrupted briefly in the early 1940s when he was jailed for refusing the draft as a conscientious objector. He later worked for the blues label Chess, where his songwriting gave a significant boost to the careers of Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter and others. Howlin’ Wolf had such success with his rendition of Dixon’s tunes that for years they were his primary recording and performance efforts. As a mentor to vocalist Koko Taylor, Dixon had her record “Wang Dang Doodle,” which became a huge hit and is still her signature classic. Later in his life Dixon had to fight to reap the financial rewards of his art and subsequently worked on behalf of other artists to assist them in securing publishing royalties. He influenced not only his contemporaries, but countless blues and rock and roll artists, including Led Zeppelin, the Doors and Cream. His body of work as a songwriter boasts many blues standards and rock and roll classics.

Essential listening: “Back Door Man,” “I Can’t Quit You Baby,” “The Seventh Son,” “You Shook Me,” “The Little Red Rooster”

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Willie Dixon

Willie Dixon