A worthy tribute to the great Bluesman, Willie Dixon

Norman Otis Richmond (aka Jalali), Diasporic Music: The Burning Spear newspaper

Willie Dixon is a person that Africa, Africans and progressive humanity should know about and celebrate. Dixon was born one hundred years ago on July 1, 1915. Mr. Dixon is one who earned tribute from Blues lovers in North America and throughout the world.
Dixon is a blues man who died rich not broke, literate not illerate. His songs have been covered by the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppein, Jimi Hendrix, the Doors, Jeff Beck, Cream and Bob Dylan.
The Mississippi-born Dixon is a vital link between rock and roll and the blues having worked with Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley in the late 1950s. The hip hop generation knows Dixon’s music by listening to KRS-One’s “Breath Control 11.” Kris Parker borrows heavy from Koko Taylor’s “Wang Dang Doodle” which is from the pen of Dixon.
It is significant that this Wang Dang Doddle took place at a union hall. He came straight out of the southern peasantry into Chicago’s working class.
Dixon’s life is one of victories. He grew up in apartheid Mississippi, he was jailed and once imprisoned, escaped and then hoboed his way as a teenager to Chi-Town.
Arriving in the Windy City Dixon refused to fight in World War II After a brief boxing career, he turned to music.
Dixon won the Illinois State Golden Gloves Heavyweight Championship (Novice Division) in 1937. He turned professional and worked briefly as Joe Louis’ sparring partner. However, he walked away from boxing after getting into a fight with his manager over payment of cash.
After turning to music he became a songwriter, bassist, guitarist, producer, arranger and an artist himself. He worked with the giants in the blues idiom like Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Little Walter. Chicago became the urban blues capital of the world and the sound of Chess records.
Songs like “Spoonful,” “I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man, “I Ain’t Superstitious,” and “Little Red Rooster.” Another person from Chicago, Sam Cooke decided to record “Little Red Rooster.”
Peter Guralnick pointed out in volume, “Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke” that Cooke attempted to get his younger brother L.C. to record Dixon’s “Little Red Rooster.” L.C. refused to record the song which was a blues hit for Howlin’ Wolf. “I’m not a blues singer” said L.C. drawing the line. Sam said, “Well I’m gonna do it then.”
The six feet, 250 pound Dixon didn’t see the blues as the music of a group of defeated Negroes. He maintained “The Blues are the true facts of life expressed in words and song, inspiration, feeling, and understanding.” He had an African consciousness to go along with his working class world view.
He traced the blues back to the motherland. Says Dixon, “All the blues songs actually related back to Africa or some of the African heritage things. All of these songs came from the original tom toms of Africa, the rhythms of Africa. They were doing code systems were the talking drums all over Africa delivering messages.”
The lyrics to his song, “I am the Blues” are about being mistreated by U.S. Imperialism and not an “evil’ black woman.
“I am the blues, I am the blues, The whole world knows, I’ve been mistreated and misusedI’m a thousand generations, Of poverty and starvation, I’m the dog, Of the United Nations, I am the blues, I am the blues.”
Dixon even made a statement when he joined the ancestors.Rev. Jesse Jackson, Ald. Dorothy Tillman and Minister Louis Farrakhan eulogized him. A reporter wrote of the funeral saying, “I was disappointed at the absence of any famous rock musicians, however.
Representatives of the Rolling Stones, Led Zepplin, George Thorogood and others were conspicuous by their absence. They wouldn`t have been able to make the rock and roll they did without Dixon’s transforming blues into up tempo city music.”
Norman (Otis) Richmond, aka Jalali, was born in Arcadia, Louisiana, and grew up in Los Angeles. He left Los Angles after refusing to fight in Vietnam because he felt that, like the Vietnamese, Africans in the United States were colonial subjects.
Richmond is currently working as a producer/host  Diasporic Music on Uhuru Radio (uhururadio.com)and his column Diasporic Music appears monthly in The Burning Spear newspaper.
NB: this text is copyrighted, and only limited excerpting with full attribution is permitted. For licensing and reproduction permissions, please contact Norman Otis Richmond at normanotisrichmond@gmail.com.
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