Willie Dixon and the Roots of Rock Family Trees

If Rock Family Trees had DNA then traces of Willie Dixon would be found everywhere. Rolling Stones, Little Red Rooster: Willie Dixon (Kinks, Stones and Pretties, London R&B Explosion). Cream, Spoonful: Willie Dixon (Alexis Korner, Clapton early and late, Steve Winwood). Jeff Beck, You Shook Me: Willie Dixon (Jeff Beck, Beck Page and Yardbirds). Bluesbreakers: All Your Love: Willie Dixon (John Mayall). Led Zeppelin: Whole Lotta Love, after legal action admitted to have been derived from Willie Dixon’s You Need Love (Beck, Page and Yardbirds, and others).

Check it out for yourself:

Here are some more examples:

Alexis Korner, I’m Built for Comfort
Savoy Brown: Wang Dang Doodle
Dr Feelgood, You’ll Be Mine
The Merseybeats: You Can’t Judge a Book By It’s Cover
Fleetwood Mac: My Baby’s Sweeter
Georgie Fame: Seventh Son
Spencer Davis: My Babe

It’s an old cliche, but if you want to see an illustration of what we could call ‘music laundering’ – how British players imported black Chicago blues and rendered them in a form acceptable to white American audiences – compare Eric Clapton’s solo on All Your Love with the Otis Rush version.

Listen to the solo starting around 1:22, and then listen at 1.20 to this:

And a further twist, Willie Dixon’s performances of his own songs don’t always have the power other singers sometimes can manage. Compare his version of Spoonful, at the top of this page, with Howlin’ Wolf, one of the greatest performances of any Willie Dixon song. Actually, make that one of the greatest performances of any song, full stop. Turn up the volume. And then some more.

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