Willie Dixon / July 1, 1915 - Jan 29, 1992

One of the most influential of blues musicians, Willie Dixon was a composer, singer, bassist, guitarist and record producer who was responsible for writing (or modernizing) long-standing jams like "Spoonful", "I Just Wanna Make Love To You", "Evil", "I Ain't Superstitious", "Wang Dang Doodle", "Hoochie-Coochie Man", "My Babe" and many more.

Born in Mississippi, he heard the blues on a prison farm in the late '20s and a few years later was singing the bass part in a gospel group and selling songs to local singers. In 1936 he moved to Chicago and was a successful professional boxer before dropping out due to corruption in the sport. He learned to play the bass and guitar and started gigging in an Ink Spots-type ensemble called The Five Breezes that recorded for Bluebird.

During WW2 he refused to fight for a country that allowed institutional racism, spending nearly a year in the clink as a conscientious objector. After release, his Big Three Trio released records on Columbia. He started working with Chess Records at its formation, his duties included session work, scouting talent, producing, arranging and composing. Indeed he contributed to most of the big records they did in the '50s. He also worked for Cobra as a producer as well as starting his own Yambo label after leaving Chess.

He worked with Memphis Slim & Pete Seeger in the early '60s, releasing some sides on Folkways. He helped present American blues across Europe for many years. His contribution in shaping blues and rock & roll were immense and the covers by white rock bands came flooding in after his "Little Red Rooster" became a #1 hit in '64 as recorded by the Rolling Stones. As an advocate for musician's rights and with a desire to find royalties for exploited musicians he founded the Blues Heaven Foundation.

Tagged: bassist, blues, Celebrate Icons, Chicago, Willie Dixon

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