“The Same Thing” and “I Am The Blues” by Willie Dixon

Willie Dixon

Willie Dixon

Willie Dixon (1915-1992) was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi and he was born to a life in music. He sang in the Baptist Church from the age of four. As a teenager, he sang in a gospel quintet called The Union Jubilee Singers. His playful mother often rhymed things she said, a habit which young Willie soon imitated. Ever the businessman, he started adapting his rhymes into songs that he sold to local musicians.

Dixon moved to Chicago in 1936 and, thanks to his 6’6”, 250 lb frame, became the Illinois State Heavyweight Boxing Champion (Novice Division). He was even Joe Louis’ sparring partner for a while! Dixon played and sang in various Chicago groups, perfecting his technique on the upright bass, until the advent of World War II. He refused conscription into military service as a conscientious objector, saying he would not fight for a nation in which institutionalized racism and racist laws were prevalent. Dixon was jailed 10 months for these beliefs.

Dixon signed with Chess Records as a recording artist but he performed less as he got more involved with administrative tasks for the label. By 1951, he was a full-time employee at Chess, where he acted as producer, talent scout, session musician, and staff songwriter. He was also a producer for Checker Records, a subsidiary of Chess. From late 1956 to 1959, he worked in a similar capacity for Cobra Records, producing early singles by Otis Rush, Magic Sam and Buddy Guy. He later recorded for Bluesville Records and ran his own record label, Yambo Records, and its two subsidiaries, Supreme and Spoonful.

Dixon is considered one of the key figures in the creation of the Chicago blues idiom. He helped far too many artists with way too many great compositions to list here, songs that have lifted these artists to the highest echelons of the blues. Some of the biggest stars of the blues supplemented their careers with songs written by Dixon – Howlin’ Wolf’s “Spoonful”, “Evil”, “Back Door Man”, and “Little Red Rooster” were all Willie Dixon compositions. “Hoochie Coochie Man” and the two songs in this post, “The Same Thing” and “I Am The Blues”, were all recorded by Muddy Waters but all were written by Willie Dixon.

In 1977, unhappy with the small royalties paid by Arc Music, Chess’ publishing company, Dixon and Muddy Waters sued Arc and, with the proceeds from the generous out-of-court settlement, founded their own publishing company, Hoochie Coochie Music. In 1987, Dixon reached an out-of-court settlement with the rock band Led Zeppelin after suing for plagiarism in the band’s use of his music in “Bring It On Home” and lyrics from his composition “You Need Love”, used in the band’s recording of “Whole Lotta Love.”

In his later years, Dixon became a tireless ambassador for the blues and a vocal advocate for its practitioners, founding the Blues Heaven Foundation, which works to preserve the legacy of the blues and to secure copyrights and royalties for blues musicians who were exploited in the past. Willie Dixon won a Grammy Award (1989) and was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame (1980), the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1994) and the Songwriters Hall Of Fame (2015).

Richard Séguin – voice, dobro, MIDI programming (piano, upright bass, drums)

To hear the song, click on the link below.

The Same Thing – I Am The Blues

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