Willie Dixon's work cannot be confined to his work as a composer, arranger, producer, and bass player. Over the course of his life and through his experience, he grew as a blues spokesperson into the embodiment of the blues preacher. This exhaustive biography and analysis of Dixon's music, the most comprehensive study of Dixon's life and work available, features extensive references, many details drawn from interviews, an analysis of Dixon's composition and studio methods, and a complete discography. Inaba (who developed this book from his doctoral dissertation) tells the story of Dixon's life, from his 1915 birth in Vicksburg, Mississippi, through his childhood in an impoverished area blemished further by racism, to his adulthood in Chicago as a boxer and musician. The details of Dixon's musical works and technique are juxtaposed with the details of Dixon's life. From the Big Three Trio to Dixon's highly productive years with Chess Records to finally, his own Blues Factory studio, Inaba traces and comments on the significance of Dixon's lasting imprint on music. Recommended for musicologists and fans of the blues, as well as those with an interest in history.
At long last, a thorough, satisfying exploration of Willie Dixon, thanks to Japanese-born musicologist Inaba. Dixon, Inaba says, was drove the successful growth of the post–WWII blues style born in the Mississippi Delta and developed at Chicago’s Chess Records. More than merely plugging a guitar into an amplifier, Dixon shepherded this evolution by writing lyrics that welded traditional wisdom and cultural references from the rural south to urban images and experiences, and then setting them to simple, driving music. Inaba locates Dixon within African American culture, describing the environment in which he was born, delving into the complexity of his religious beliefs, and providing insight into black cultural patterns. This enables Inaba to identify nuances in Dixon’s writing that elevate his songs from entertainment to poetry. Inaba also shows how Dixon ensured the successes of Muddy Waters, Koko Taylor, Howlin’ Wolf, Otis Rush, Buddy Guy, and other popular blues musicians by writing songs specifically tailored for each singer’s personality and musical strengths. Extensively researched, Inaba’s volume fully exposes Dixon as a multifaceted blues innovator and essential presence in American music.