James Cotton Kim Wilson

Willie Dixon for Songwriters Hall of Fame

    Willie Dixon is the single most influential blues composer. Rock, country, and R&B are all directly derived from blues. Modern hip hop and EDM are indirectly derived from the blues (through those first three genres).

    Many of the important songs you already know from modern artists were written by Willie Dixon, including “Hoochie Coochie Man”, “I Just Want to Make Love to You”, “Little Red Rooster”, “My Babe”, “Spoonful”, and “You Can’t Judge a Book by the Cover”.

    Surprisingly, Willie Dixon isn’t in the Songwriters Hall of Fame. The Songwriters Hall of Fame was founded in 1969 by songwriter Johnny Mercer and publishers Abe Olman and Howie Richmond. In 2010, the Songwriters Hall of Fame was given a physical home at the Los Angeles GRAMMY Museum.

    Bernie Taupin, cowriter of many of Elton John’s famous hits, as well as cowriter of hits with Alice Cooper, recently wrote an open letter to the Songwriters Hall of Fame, criticizing Willie Dixon being left out:

    Once again I’m forced to express my utter frustration with The Songwriters Hall of Fame nominating committee for failing to lionize and reward the work of Willie Dixon, arguably the greatest and single most successful blues composer of the 20th century. His inclusion in the Songwriters Hall of Fame is embarrassingly overdue.

    To continually ignore this titan of the blues while consistently honoring songwriters whose work merely constitutes a handful of hits at most (I’ll refrain from naming names) is not only an appalling oversight, but a slap in the face to a genre that his songs have dominated for decades.

    Without Willie Dixon, Chicago blues and Chess Records in particular would be bereft of much of its catalogue while every fledgling English blues band starting out would have be down to half a set list, think The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds, Cream and Led Zeppelin.

    Ever since my teens, I have been in awe of Willie Dixon’s extraordinary talent as a musician, arranger, producer and above all other things a songwriter of unique and raw originality. In my estimation, he is an American icon in the tradition of Woody Guthrie, Led Belly and Duke Ellington deserving of the same accolades and rightful place in any organization that salutes compositional greatness (he was inducted posthumously into The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.)

    See Bernie Taupin’s blog for the complete text.

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