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Remembering Willie Dixon: Cream, The Doors, Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, Otis Rush, Muddy Waters

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Verse Chorus Verse has been digitally remastered and returns to its rightful place at Blogcritics as a daily feature.  VCV was created with the intention of being a “Song Of The Day” feature but realized I might have been limiting myself as I looked back at the description I wrote for the series at its inception.  I borrowed a bit from Buddy Guy and described this as “A Man And His iPod.”  With that in mind, what better place to create playlists for bathroom listening than this little feature right here, right now?

The timing of this just couldn’t be any better.  I get to remaster and reintroduce VCV with a playlist dedicated to one of the most important, most covered, most influential songwriters in American history because he was born on July 1, 1915.

You may not know the name Willie Dixon but he was the ultimate music impresario before such a thing even existed.  Willie Dixon wrote, produced, played bass, and organized recording sessions all over Chicago during its day as one of America’s most important musical cities.  His catalog is as influential as any in rock music.  The songs he wrote inspired young men (and women) the world over to become musicians, many of whom later covered Willie Dixon songs.  

Lurrie Bell – “Chicago Is Loaded With The Blues:”  Not his most famous song but Lurrie Bell is a National Treasure and this song tells the story that sets the stage for the rest of these songs.

Cream – “Spoonful:”  Along with their cover of Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads,” this is one of Cream’s most famous covers and a song they dominated live.  This song has been covered 1,000 times and I had such a tough time choosing which to include on here (nearly went with Etta James’ version) but Clapton’s discovery of guys like Dixon and Johnson are vital moments in the history of rock.

The Doors – “Back Door Man:”  We think of Jim Morrison as a poet and he was but The Doors had a definite blues/garage rock kick to them.  Like “Spoonful,” there are so many versions of this song but I like the psychedelic blues kick of The Doors.

Howlin’ Wolf – “The Red Rooster:”  Howlin’ Wolf didn’t always see eye-to-eye with Dixon (there are stories of them coming to blows or nearly coming to blows) but Wolf recorded some of the definitive versions of Dixon’s songs (his “Spoonful” is also a classic) and The Rolling Stones were influenced by them.

Led Zeppelin – “You Shook Me:”  Led Zeppelin blatantly stole from Willie Dixon, crediting some of his songs as their own.  LZ weren’t the only ones to screw Dixon out of money and songwriting credits.  He later sued the band who settled with him.  Setting that aside, Robert Plant was a great blues-rock singer and this is a great, great moment from their debut.

The Rolling Stones – “I Just Want To Make Love To You:” The Rolling Stones took their name from a song Muddy Waters wrote but it could have just as easily been a Willie Dixon song as Waters, like Wolf, often recorded Dixon tunes.  The Stones heard Muddy’s version and sped it up, rocking it out and making it a hit for themselves.  The Stones’ bad boy image was inspired by taking on raunchy blues numbers like this.

Otis Rush – “I Can’t Quit You Baby:”  Most people know the Zeppelin version best but it’s Otis’ version of that song Zeppelin copied and covered.  As far as I’m concerned, Willie and Otis should have both gotten some money from Page and Plant.

Koko Taylor – “Wang Dang Doodle:”  Howlin’ Wolf hated recording this song but it became one of the biggest hits and signature songs for The Queen of The Blues.

Muddy Waters – “I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man:”  This might be one of the most famous songs everybody knows without knowing that they know.  This riff, this rhythm, these words- everything about this song is in the DNA of just about every song written since.  Muddy’s version stands apart as the definitive one but this has been done by everybody.

Sonny Boy Williamson – “Bring It On Home:”  Another Willie Dixon song famously associated with Led Zeppelin but I wanted to talk about the great Sonny Boy Williamson because it clearly influenced Robert Plant’s vocal when Zeppelin later recorded it.  

Check out these 10 songs and celebrate the legacy of Willie Dixon.  Do you have a different favorite version of a Willie Dixon song?  Let’s hash it out in the comments.  Happy Birthday, Willie!

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About Josh Hathaway

  • Connie Phillips

    Great playlist! I’m so happy to see you bringing this feature back in a new form.

  • El Bicho

    Looks like I need to crack out so Willie. Thanks for the reminder

  • Josh Hathaway

    Thanks, guys! I played this set for myself last night while writing the feature and I enjoyed every bit of it. I also started thinking about the alternate tracklistings that were possible and it was amazing.

  • Eric Olsen

    great job Josh – love the selections! Did you ever see this bio I did on Dixon?

  • Josh Hathaway

    Thanks, EO. The great thing about this is I can think of 10 more for next year, easy.

    I do remember your article on Dixon, commented on it under my former pseudonym.

  • dscsdcsd

    Led Zeppelin credited Willie Dixon for writting both “You Shook Me” and “I Can’t Quit You Baby”, learn your shit before talkin about it