Jim Dickinson dies at 67; musician-producer helped shape the Memphis sound
The piano player who settled down as an independent producer worked with the likes of Bob Dylan, Ry Cooder and the Dixie Flyers.
Jim Dickinson worked with such greats as Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, Ry Cooder and the Rolling Stones. He is shown with sound engineer Jennifer Lee. (Lance Murphey / Commercial Appeal / May 30, 2006)
His wife, Mary Lindsay Dickinson, said he died in a Memphis, Tenn., hospital after three months of heart and intestinal bleeding problems.
The couple lived in Hernando, Miss., but Dickinson recently had bypass surgery and was undergoing rehabilitation at Methodist University Hospital, his wife said.
Dickinson managed an outsider's career in an insider's industry, recording with and producing greats including Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, Big Star, the Rolling Stones, the Replacements and Sam & Dave.
His work in the 1960s and '70s is still influential as young artists rediscover the classic sound of Memphis from that era -- a melting pot of rock, pop, blues, country and R&B.
"I think he was an incredibly influential individual," Big Star drummer Jody Stephens said. "I think he defined independent spirit in music, and I think that touched a lot of people." Dickinson was born Nov. 21, 1941, in Little Rock, Ark., and grew up in Chicago, where he learned to play the piano. He attended Baylor University before transferring to Memphis State.
A dabbler in music while in college and later in shows at the famed Overton Park Shell in Memphis, Dickinson was on his way to becoming "a miserable history teacher." But his wife insisted he focus on music after watching him play shows with the blues legends of Memphis.
Dickinson moved around, traveling with both his own projects and as a sideman until his wife had two sons. He gave up the road and the lifestyle, built a home studio and settled in to the hardscrabble life of the independent producer that he jokingly compared to hustling.
His career touched on some of the most important music made in the '60s and '70s. Dickinson recorded the Rolling Stones' "Wild Horses" in Muscle Shoals, Ala.; formed the Atlantic Records house band the Dixie Flyers to record with Franklin and other R&B legends in Miami; inspired a legion of indie rock bands through his work with Big Star; collaborated with Ry Cooder on a number of movie scores, including "Paris, Texas"; and played with Dylan on his Grammy-winning return to prominence, "Time Out of Mind."
Besides his wife, Dickinson is survived by their sons, Luther and Cody, two-thirds of the blues/rock band North Mississippi Allstars.