Jim Dickinson: An appreciation of the late, and very great, Memphis musician
If my desert island discs were made up just of music by acts who had worked with Jim Dickinson then I really wouldn’t complain. Never heard of the guy? Don’t feel bad. The Memphis-based session musician and producer, who died yesterday at the age of 67, was hardly a household name and released only a handful of solo albums, none of which were exactly blockbuster hits (though his 1972 solo debut, Dixie Fried, is a terrific collection of idiosyncratic blues whose title nicely summed up this larger-than-life character.) That doesn’t stop Dickinson being a legend, particularly to the many stars of several generations who benefited from his musicianship and his production skills.
This is a man who worked with Sam & Dave and Green On Red; with Bob Dylan and Mudhoney; Aretha Franklin and Big Star. Not impressed yet? Then, it is also worth mentioning that Dickinson played piano on the classic Rolling Stones lament “Wild Horses” (because, so legend has it, the band’s regular pianist, Ian Stewart, refused to play minor chords) and produced the Replacements’ great Pleased To Meet Me album. Meanwhile, the strength of the Dickinson musical genes is evident in the careers of his sons, and North Mississippi Allstars members, Luther and Cody.
Below, you can find a tiny sample of his work, including Bob Dylan’s epic track “Highlands,” on which Dickinson played keyboards. If the clips make you want to find out more, then check out his Zebra Ranch website. Amongst the material to be found there is a quote from producer Daniel Lanois in which he recalls how Dylan once told him, “If you’ve got Dickinson, you don’t need anybody else.” Sadly, the option of “getting Dickinson” has now disappeared, and the world of music is much poorer and less colorful for it.
More from EW’s Music Mix: