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The Family Blues of Willie Dixon Who Changed the Style of the Blues in Chicago

By Raquel Harris : Chicago Staff Writer

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The Chicago Blues Festival is the largest free blues festival in the world and remains the largest of Chicago’s Music Festivals. During three days on five stages, more than 500,000 blues fans prove that Chicago is the “Blues Capital of the World.” Past performers include Bonnie Raitt, Ray Charles, B.B. King, the late Bo Diddley, Buddy Guy and the late Koko Taylor.

With an average of 500,000 in attendance each year, it stands stagnant in being the largest Blues festival in the world and remains the largest of Chicago’s music festivals according to cityofchicago.org. Some of the festival’s past performers have been greats like Ray Charles, Bonnie Raitt, B.B. King, Buddy Guy, and Muddy Waters.

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Along with food and music, there are also Blues vendors that sell souvenirs like clothing, mugs, and gift sets to fans. Some of the vendors are even family to some of the late greats. Willie Dixon’s grandson Willie Dixon the second is one of those vendors.

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For those who may not know, Willie Dixon senior was a songwriter, singer/ bassist/ producer as well as contributed hundreds of song compositions to the Chicago Blues industry. Throughout Dixon’s career, he became a Grammy- award winning artist, and grew to be one of the most prolific songwriters of his time. Dixon is best known for shaping the post-World War II sound of Chicago Blues and was even portrayed in the 2008 feature film Cadillac Records.

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Dixon the second said that the light that sheds from his grandfather’s legacy is a positive one. “It’s a very positive light because of the positive impact that he had on people and the Blues community, and also the ethnicity of African American culture, said Dixon the second.

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In his later years, Dixon senior became a relentless ambassador for Blues and his local practitioners leading him to found the Blues Heaven Foundation, a non-profit organization in Chicago which works to continue the Blues’ legacy and to secure copyrights and royalties for blues musicians who were exploited in the past. The Dixon family promotes the corporation while at the festival. People like my grandfather and the people he worked with were innovators of their time and that’s pretty great,” said Dixon the second.

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