RIP: Legendary Memphis Producer Jim Dickinson


MEMPHIS COMMERCIAL APPEAL: The North Mississippi Allstars have lost their father, Bob Dylan has lost a “brother,” rock and roll has lost one of its great cult heroes and Memphis has lost a musical icon with the death of Jim Dickinson. The 67-year-old Dickinson passed away early Saturday morning in his sleep. The Memphis native and longtime Mississippi resident had been in failing health for the past few months and was recuperating from heart surgery at Methodist Extended Care Hospital. MORE

BILL BENTLEY: There aren’t many shamans still in our world. Most have been ground down to dust, and those left are laying low, hoping to dodge the bullets surely headed their way by the pop culture police. But off the beaten path and down miles of quiet two-lanes in northern Mississippi, the trees overgrown with kudzu and the fields silent with tales too terrible to mention, lives Jim Dickinson. He is one of the last record producers who has seen all that the world of music has to offer, and continues to believe human beings playing instruments and singing songs hold the secrets of the universe. MORE

ASSOCIATED PRESS: Dickinson’s career touched on some of the most important music made in the ’60s and ’70s. He played piano on the Rolling Stones’ “Wild Horses” in Muscle Shoals, Ala.; formed the Atlantic Records house band The Dixie Flyers to record with Aretha Franklin and other R&B legends; inspired a legion of indie rock bands through his work with Big Star [pictured above]; collaborated with Ry Cooder on a number of movie scores, jim dickinson_1.jpgincluding “Paris, Texas”; and played with Bob Dylan on his Grammy-winning return to prominence, “Time Out of Mind.” MORE

NEWSWEEK: He spent most of his life helping other people get their music on wax, disc, tape—realize their vision, in other words. Not many people know how to do that and those who do rarely do it with the inspiring generosity Dickinson brought to the studio or the recording booth. A self-deprecating man who never left his sense of humor in his other pants, Dickinson deflected any suggestion that he was a walking encyclopedia of American popular music, or that he was some torch bearer of white Southern soul or that he knew how to reach down to the very roots of American song and then communicate that essence to you in his music or the music he helped others make. Jim Dickinson was a great musician who led by example. He never cut a dishonest track in his life. If you never heard him, it’s your loss, because he was the real deal. He said he wanted his epitaph to read, “I’m just dead. I’m not gone.” MORE

BIRDMAN RECORDS BLOG: It was at Ardent Studio, Memphis in the late 20th Century. Mudhoney were doing overdubs for the record that would be called TOMORROW HIT TODAY and the legendary Jim Dickinson was behind the board with a bag of gris gris in one hand (aka producer vuggum) and a box of CDs in the other. During a down-moment of the session, Jim called to order what was included in the box: CDs that to him were Muses…music he tries to have at most sessions…the stuff that at this point was had been incorporated into his DNA. Upon the release of the Spectrum Meets Captain Memphis record, I asked Jim if he might remind me of some of the records that were included in his sacred box. He gave me the following list:

Jam Session Coast to CoastEddie Condon– A perfect recording. This started it all for me. Wild Bill Davidson on top.

Trouble is a ManJudy Holiday – Document of her marriage to Gerry Mulligan. Sad songs.

Dickinson_Watermelon.jpg At the PershingAhmad Jamal – Total groove. Chess Records. Poinciana perfect for sex.

Introducing VellegasRichard Villegas– The secret to my piano style. Coolest of the cool.

Sketches of SpainMiles Davis – My test for new audio playback environment. World wide.

Weary BluesLangston Hughes – Charley Mingus leads the band. Langston Hughes reads like pre-Kerouac

Blues From The GutterChampion Jack Dupree – Wexler and Tom Dowd on a humid afternoon in New Orleans.

Happy All the TimeJoseph Spence – Like a religious salvation experience in Bimini.

Amazing GraceMississippi Fred McDowell – Keith Richards’ vocal model. (The male harmony).

On the Streets of New York – Moondog – Discovered at a dime store in Little Rock, AR in 1956. My inspiration for the keyboard parts on Paris, Texas. MORE

EDITOR’S NOTE: At around the 1:17 mark, Dickinson can be seen kicking back on a studio sofa next to Keith Richards — both men’s eyes closed, heads lolling to the music — listening to the playback of the just-recorded “Wild Horses” in this must-see outtake from Gimme Shelter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *