5 Songs You Didn’t Know Willie Dixon Wrote for Other Artists

Along with early Mississippi migrants Muddy Waters, Son House, and Robert Johnson, Willie Dixon was a key figure and an early pioneer in the formation of the Chicago blues sound by the 1940s. Capturing the essence of the blues scene, Dixon’s lyrical stories crossed pining for love to life burdens.

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“Whether it was a good experience, bad experience or what type of experience and they sung and made songs according,” said Dixon. “And that’s why I wrote so many songs because I been writing about the true facts of life that exist today and yesterday and for what I hope will be tomorrow a better future.”

[RELATED: American Icons: Willie Dixon]

Born July 1, 1915, in Vicksburg, Mississippi, and one of 14 children, Dixon gravitated to music as a child. Drawn to early boogie-woogie, blues, and jazz, he later started singing in a local gospel group. Inspired by his mother, who would often speak in rhymes, Dixon was a natural poet and began turning his poetry into songs and selling them to local artists.

After moving to Chicago by the mid-1930s, Dixon played bass with a number of groups and later signed to Chess Records, where he started writing for Waters, Bo Diddley, Little Walter, Howlin Wolf, and many others before moving to Cobra Records where he continued to pen songs for artists including Buddy Guy and Otis Rush before starting his own label.

By the ’50s, Dixon was also helping link blues and rock, working with Diddley and Chuck Berry and through later collaborations with Fleetwood Mac and Johnny Winter. In 1964, The Rolling Stones also hit the chart with Dixon’s “Little Red Rooster” and released their cover of “I Just Want To Make Love To You” on their eponymous debut.

Throughout his career, Dixon, who died on January 29, 1992, at 76, also expanded his own catalog of music, from Willie’s Blues in 1959 through one of his final recordings, Ginger Ale Afternoon, the soundtrack for the 1989 film of the same name, which earned him a Grammy nomination. Dixon received his only Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Recording for his 1988 album Hidden Charms.

A first inductee into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1980, Dixon was later inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the Chicago Blues Hall of Fame.

Though his catalog is filled with plenty of his poetic stories, here are five songs Dixon wrote for other artists in the 1950s through the ’60s.

1. “I Just Want to Make Love to You,” Muddy Waters (1954)
Written by Willie Dixon

Written by Dixon and later covered by him, “I Just Want to Make Love to You” was first recorded by Muddy Waters and peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard R&B Best Sellers chart. The sultry blues classic has been covered dozens of times, including Etta James’ 1960 version, off of her album At Last!, which was used for a Diet Coke commercial in the mid-’90s. Other artists who have taken on the song include Chuck Berry, The Rolling Stones, The Righteous Brothers, B.B. King, Tom Petty, Peter Frampton, The Meat Puppets, and Foghat, among many others. Dixon eventually released his own version of the song on his 1973 album, Catalyst.

For Waters, Dixon also wrote, “I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man,” (1955) which he later released himself in 1970, along with “I Don’t Know Why” (1954), “Close to You” (1955), “I Got to Find My Baby” (1955), and “Don’t Go No Farther” (1956), and more for his fellow blues man.

I don’t want you to be no slave
I don’t want you to work all day
But I want you to be true
And I just wanna make love to you

2. “Evil (Is Going On),” Howlin’ Wolf (1954)
Written by Willie Dixon

Howlin’ Wolf first recorded and released Dixon’s song “Evil (Is Going On),” also called “Evil,” as a single in 1954, and it was later included on his 1959 compilation album, Moanin’ in the Moonlight. In 1969, Wolf rereleased the song on his  The Howlin’ Wolf Album. The original recording features Dixon on double bass.

Over the years, Dixon wrote a number of other songs for Wolf, including “Back Door Man” (1960), “The Little Red Rooster” (1961), “I Ain’t Superstitious” (1961), and “Do the Do” (1962).

If you’re a long way from home
Can’t sleep at night
Grab your telephone
Something just ain’t right

That’s evil
Evil is goin’ on wrong
I am warning you, brother
You better watch your happy home

3. “Diddy Wah Diddy,” Bo Diddley (1956)
Written by Willie Dixon and Ellas McDaniel (Bo Diddley)

Using a similar title to early blues and ragtime singer Blind Blake’s 1929 song “Diddie Wah Diddie,” Dixon and Diddley’s version was a completely different monster. Diddley’s fourth single, “Diddy Wah Diddy” was later covered by Captain Beefheart, Taj Mahal, Ty Segal Band, and many more.

Dixon also penned Diddley’s third single in 1955, “Pretty Thing,” and his 1962 release “You Can’t Judge a Book by the Cover.”

I gotta gal down in Diddy Wah Diddy
Ain’t no town an it ain’t no city
She loves her man, just is a pity
Crazy ’bout my gal in Diddy Wah Diddy

4. “Let Me Love You Baby,” Buddy Guy (1961)
Written by Willie Dixon

Dixon wrote a number of songs for Buddy Guy throughout the 1960s, including his 1961 hit, “Let Me Love You Baby.” Over the decades everyone from the late Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jeff Beck (with Guy) to Joe Bonamassa have also covered the song.

He also wrote Guy’s “I Got a Strange Feeling” (1960), “When My Left Eye Jumps” (1962), “I Dig Your Wig,” (1964, co-written with Guy), “Every Girl I See” and “Too Many Ways,” both released 1967. In 1963, Dixon, along with Guy and Muddy Waters recorded a version of “Wee, Wee, Baby,” which was originally written by Kokomo Arnold, Pete Johnson, and Big Joe Turner.

Let me love you baby, let me love you baby
Whoa, let me love you baby, yes, let me love you baby
Let me love you baby ’til your good love drives me crazy

I give it all I own just for a little bit of your love
I give it all I own just for a little bit of your love
Since I met you baby, that’s all I’ve been livin’ for

5. “Earthquake & Hurricane,” Tina Turner (1978)
Written by Willie Dixon

Dixon later recorded “Earthquake & Hurricane,” but he gave it to Tina Turner first. Turner released the song on Rough, her first solo album following the demise of her working relationship and divorce from Ike Turner. Unlike her first two solo albums, released while she was still part of the Ike and Tina Turner Revue — Tina Turns the Country On! and Acid Queen — Rough was slanted toward more blues and disco tracks.

In 1984, Dixon released his version of the song on his album Mighty Earthquake and Hurricane.

The earth cracked open
And was breathing fire
Everybody running
Some was ready to die
Some was going crazy
Some insane
Saying save me
From this hurricane

Photo by Paul Natkin/Getty Images

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