Willie Dixon has long been one of my biggest musical heroes not only for his music, but for his character. He's best known for being instrumental in the development of Chicago/Chess blues as well as early rock n roll. However, prior to that he was involved in the early R&B movement with his small combo, the Big 3 Trio who fused jazz with blues in a kind of jive style (a style that would live on in Willie's solo recordings). Additionally, much later in his career he formed The Blues Heaven Foundation, an organization dedicated to fighting for blues musicians who had been exploited by the music industry.
Also noteworthy, he spent 10 months in prison after refusing to take part in WWII as a conscientious objector. Willie would remain an outspoken peacenik throughout his life.
Here is a short list of just some of his compositions which became blues standards:
"Bring It On Home"
"Diddy Wah Diddy"
"Hoochie Coochie Man"
"Howlin' for My Baby"
"I Ain't Superstitious"
"I Got What It Takes"
"I Just Want to Make Love to You"
"Little Red Rooster"
"Mellow Down Easy"
"The Seventh Son"
"Three Hundred Pounds of Joy"
"Wang Dang Doodle"
"You Can't Judge a Book by the Cover"
"You'll Be Mine"
It's pretty mind-blowing that so many definitive blues compositions came from one man. It's really hard to imagine where blues would have been without him. Certainly not as commercially successful. Or maybe someone else would have come along to fill what surely would have been an enormous void in Willie's absence. Of course we'll never know.
I've long felt it's quite a shame that he's not celebrated more. American music was largely molded by this plus sized genius.