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The blues is not a plaything like some people think they are. Like youngsters today, right now they take anything and make the blues out of it. Just any little ol junk something or other and say this is the such and such a blues. NO IT'S NOT. Ain't but ONE kind of blues, and that consists between male and female what's in love. In love. Male and Female - Son House

Author Topic: Willie Dixon's Lyrics  (Read 1618 times)

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Online Johnm

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Willie Dixon's Lyrics
« on: December 17, 2008, 10:34:44 AM »
Hi all,
I've been thinking for some time that the lyrics of Willie Dixon, as exemplified by such songs as "Hoochie Coochie Man", "Little Red Rooster", "If the Rabbit Had a Gun" and many others, set a new sort of standard for dramatic use of language in the blues.  I wondered if any of you had ever heard him talk, either in interviews or in a biography, of his approach to song-writing, who he considered his own models or precursors to be, and anything else related to his song-writing.  Certainly there were theme-based lyrics in the blues prior to his, but he seemed to take things to a new level in terms of the consistency, coherence and impact of his images.  Any information on his history as a song-writer out there?
All best,
Johnm

Online David Kaatz

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Re: Willie Dixon's Lyrics
« Reply #1 on: December 17, 2008, 10:46:12 AM »
Don't know John, but I'm looking up Dixon in one of my books.  Dixon has an autobiography called "I Am the Blues"
Someone on here must have read that.  I've never seen it.

Dave

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Willie Dixon's Lyrics
« Reply #2 on: December 17, 2008, 11:41:57 AM »
Don't know John, but I'm looking up Dixon in one of my books.  Dixon has an autobiography called "I Am the Blues"
Someone on here must have read that.  I've never seen it.Dave
I have it in front of me and more an "as told to Don Snowden" type autobiography. It was published by Quartet Books in London and New York (254pp, 1989). There's an appendix devoted to listing Dixon compositions/copyrights but no specific index entry for "song writing". When I get a minute I'll skim read to see if I can spot discussion, unless somebody gets there before me.

Offline ozrkreb

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Re: Willie Dixon's Lyrics
« Reply #3 on: December 17, 2008, 12:47:15 PM »
There are several portions of the book where Willie discusses songwriting. Here are a few excerpts....enjoy.
Az (aka Doc Wood)

In the South, the gypsies would come around and tell fortunes. When I was a little boy, you'd see a covered wagon coming along and these women with their great big dresses--doggone know how many dresses they'd have on--and all of them would have pockets up under them. I didn't know some of them would steal, you know. Nobody's paying attention to a little kid like me walking around there and these gypsies would take little gadgets from rooms.

Naturally, if somebody who wants your money and wants to use you is going to tell you a story, they have to tell you something you want to hear. If the gypsies come up to some lady's house and she's pregnant, the first thing they'd say is, "Ooh, you're going to have a fine fat boy. He's gonna be able to tell the future before it comes to pass."

The average person wants to brag about themselves because it makes that individual feel big. "The gypsy woman told my mother/Before I was born" - that shows I was smart from the beginning. "Got a boy child coming/gonna be a sonuvagun" -now I'm here. These songs make people want to feel like that because they feel like that at heart, anyway. They just haven't said it so you say if for them.

Like the song, "I Just wanna Make Love to You," a lot of times people say this in their minds or think it. You don't have to say it but everybody knows that's the way you feel anyway because that's how the other fella feels. You know how you feel so you figure the other fella feels the same way because his life is just like yours.

To know the blues is to know a feeling and understanding within people that puts you in the position of other people by feeling and understanding the plight that they're involved in. You don't always get the experience in the blues from the life you live because sometimes these things are built into a certain individual.

A man don't have to be starving to know how it feels to starve. All he's got to do is know how it feels to miss one or two meals and he knows that other fella is in much worse shape. But if a person don't have no feeling, no imagination or understanding, you can't create a feeling with him because he doesn't hear what you say.


The Seventh Son is kind of a historical idea. In New Orleans and Algiers, Louisiana, they have these people calling themselves born for good luck because they're the seventh sister or seventh brother or the seventh child. The world has made a pattern out of this seven as a lucky number. Most people think the seventh child has the extra wisdom and knowledge to influence other people.

I wrote "Tollin' Bells" for Lowell Fulson and the idea was like in New Orleans, when they'd have a funeral, guys would be marching for the funeral with the church bells tolling. The idea was to make these horns blend in a minor tone, with the minor against the major. I was using the horns to play two parts of a minor chord and the piano playing the other. The idea was to do something with a different harmony blend but a good blend.

The average blues song must have a feeling or the world won't accept it. You have to have a lot of inspiration and you have to be able to sell that inspiration to the other fellow. If the artist can express the song with inspiration, it inspires the public because music has that generating thing. If it touches you and you can feel it, you can inspire someone else. It's just like electricity going from one to the other.

Feeling has a lot to do with it all the time. If some guy calls you a dirty name, you know when the guy means it and when he's just kidding. Dusty Fletcher was a comedian who used to do the "Open the door, Richard' routine onstage everywhere. He would come on at the Regal Theater in Chicago and cuss and raise hell and talk more bad talk onstage and everybody would be crying they laughed so much. Somebody else says "damn" onstage and everybody's insulted.

My hook's on bottom, but my cork's on top

Online Johnm

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Re: Willie Dixon's Lyrics
« Reply #4 on: December 17, 2008, 02:11:09 PM »
Thanks very much for those excerpts, ozrkreb, those are exactly the kinds of insights and points of view from Willie Dixon that I was hoping for.  His comments provide additional tools to bring to bear on the issue of "Blues Lyrics--What Do You Hear?", http://weeniecampbell.com/yabbse/index.php?amp;Itemid=60&topic=4323.0 
All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: December 17, 2008, 02:14:42 PM by Johnm »

Offline ozrkreb

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Re: Willie Dixon's Lyrics
« Reply #5 on: December 19, 2008, 05:18:02 AM »
Here are a few more that I came across. The last comment in regards to the song Spoonful is especially interesting.



I see recording like a painting. If you put a black picture on a white wall, the background helps the picture and the picture helps the background so you enjoy the both of them together unconsciously. This is the way about the melodic lines in music--you use them as the basic background because it beautifies the complete story. You know the background is there so you can express the words with a certain feeling. If you care to make variations, your variations won't bother the background and the background won't bother you.

The idea of "Spoonful" was that it doesn't take a large quantity of anything to be good. If you have a little money when you need it, you're right there in the right spot, that'll buy you a whole lot. If a doctor give you less than a spoonful of some kind of medicine that can kill you, he can give you less than a spoonful of another that will make you well.

But after you write these songs, people who have bad minds, their minds will tell them what they want to believe. If it's blues and they've been trying to degrade the blues all the time, I don't care what title you come up with, they'll say it's a bad title. I remember a time years ago that if I said sex, my mama would beat the hell out of me. People who think "Spoonful" was about heroin are mostly people with heroin ideas.

My hook's on bottom, but my cork's on top

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