The Legacy of Willie Dixon
Willie Dixon (1915–1992) was one of the most important figures in the blues, and his impact on the bass cannot be underestimated. In addition to his upright bass playing, Dixon's songwriting and producing skills further enhance his presence as one of the most pivotal characters in the blues.
Dixon was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi, a small city located in the Mississippi Delta. It was in the Mississippi Delta that the blues was born around 1900. In the early 1900s, no one knew that the blues would become one of the world's most influential styles of music, playing a significant role in the development of jazz, rock, and popular styles. However, the great migration north to Chicago gave the blues a lasting voice in popular music. Along with Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, and others, Dixon was one of the Delta blues-men to move to Chicago in the 1930s. Once there, he helped to create the Chicago style of blues.
The Great Migration occurred after both world wars in the United States. This movement is critical to the development of all forms of African American music. It was in the metropolitan areas of northern cities such as Chicago, Detroit, and New York that the blues crossed racial barriers and captured the American consciousness. Willie Dixon was an integral part of this musical revolution.
As a songwriter, Dixon penned some of the most memorable blues numbers in history, including “Hoochie Coochie Man,” “I Just Want to Make Love to You,” and many others. Rock legends Led Zeppelin borrowed from Dixon's song “You Need Love” to create their hit “Whole Lotta Love.” A 1985 lawsuit gave Dixon credit as co-composer.
Looking at Dixon's career in retrospective, it's clear that Dixon had a great impact on rock and pop music. First of all, he played bass on many early Chuck Berry records. Secondly, dozens of rock and pop artists have covered Dixon's tunes. Some notables include the Doors, Eric Clapton, the Grateful Dead, the Rolling Stones, Cream, the Monkees, Aerosmith, Megadeth, the Jesus and Mary Chain, and P. J. Harvey.