[Harp-L] Willie Dixon Controversy
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- Subject: [Harp-L] Willie Dixon Controversy
- From: David Fertig <drfertig@xxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Tue, 25 Nov 2008 16:54:55 -0800 (PST)
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My sense is that Willie Dixon was a product of the recording industry once he got into it. Before and throughout, he was a musician's musician. Even though he didn't play harp.
Nobody denies Dixon was prolific as producer, composer, performer, promoter. And many, including some whom he allegedly got the edge on, credit Willie Dixon as a generally kind fellow to most, if a task horse, a champion of the blues and its peformers, and a tireless worker. Also a sharp negotiator.
He gave much of himself, helping others along and often taking no credit for his work. Also, he apparently got credit for others' work more than a few times. Even if Chess et al didn't basically force that upon Willie, I don't particularly fault him for it, insofare as every musican in that milieu constantly signed conflicting contracts, changed names to steal or con gigs, etc., etc. I suspect it was a scramble for survival.
indeed, Willie Dixon made a decent living out of it all, while protecting himself from Chess and other labels, also while helping himself, but also encouraging others to preserve their publishing and other rights. Sometimes successfully, according to him and others.
Isn't it simplistic to cast Dixon in stark good/evil terms? Sure. If he took publishing rights to traditional songs, he was neither the first nor last, and any money preserved for artists from often-greedy labels is to be relished. if he took others' credits, they should be restored.
Anyway, of all the things he did, one thing in my view stands him head and shoulders above so many others of that era who sought to promote the blues:
The American Folk Blues Festival tours throught the 60's.
Willie Dixon didn't invent the AFBF, but without his participation it is unlikely they would have succeeded at all, let alone succeed in reviving - dramatically reviving, all over the world, - the blues.
Without that, most of us traditional style blues harp players would have less of an audience, and less of an inspiration.
Willie, you ain't no saint, but you performed some miracles!
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