Grad2B salutes – JIM DICKINSON – Music Artist

Grad2B salutes – JIM DICKINSON – Music Artist

Can one person gain enough power to change our world for the better? Our GRAD2B “Salute Series” recognizes great educators and entrepreneurs, human potential creators from all periods of history, from all nations, and from all walks of life.

Jim's Last Words

These individuals— not necessarily professors or teachers themselves— are those who have raised the quality of life of humanity, through education. Some are immensely wealthy, some poor, some renowned, some obscure. They have one thing in common: their pivotal roles in improving the lives of others, through moral will, personal influence, and self-sacrifice. It all begins with knowledge. And more— intuition and talent.

James Luther Dickinson— a music genus, star-maker, and iconic marvel of talented self-invention— died last year. I went to school with Jim, was inspired by his audacity and talent, and I still can run the video in my head, of Jim’s junior high band playing on the stage of the school cafeteria, Jim wangling away on his front guitar, filling the big room with crazy hypnotic sound.

He died last year, and it stunned me. I waited to write this, until the initial media furor passed. To write and reflect on the richness of Jim’s life. His sons are Luther and Cody, of the North Mississippi Allstars.

Education can take many twists and turns. After graduation from high school in memphis, Jim attended film school sat Rice University, but music was his real home.

Jim was a product of Memphis and the Blues, like Elvis, a white boy growing up in the incredible wealth of American music. As a boy, a black man working for his family taught him the “codes” on his mother’s piano— gifting Jim with the rich chords of the Blues, which Jim, the boy, took to mean secret codes— and they were. But only secret to those willing to share them. And Jim shared his music with the world, passing on this rich gift of music.

Jim Dickinson

Jim’s creativity was globally felt. Bob Dylan called Jim his “brother”, and The Rolling Stones praised Jim’s work (like Jim’s immortal Blues piano on “Wild Horses.”)
How did a Memphis boy become this person? Jim worked with so many greats, producing musics, making music, an impossible list, Sam Phillips, Chips Moman, Alex Chilton, Paul Westerberg and Ry Cooder.

And the movies. Jim did many film music scores, haunting scores with Ry Cooder. I talked about Jim once with Walter Hill, the director of some of those films, and Walter remembered Jim with a smile and great respect.

In 1972 Jim released his first solo album, “Dixie Fried”, playing every instrument himself, with his own songs plus songs by Bob Dylan, Carl Perkins and Furry Lewis. He produced the now legendary Big Star’s Third in 1974, and co-producing with Alex Chilton on the 1979 Chilton album Like Flies on Sherbert. Jim produced Willy DeVille, Green on Red, Mojo Nixon, The Replacements, Tav Falco’s Panther Burns, and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, and so many others. In 1977 Jim created an aural documentary of Memphis’ Beale Street, Beale Street Saturday Night, with performances by Sid Selvidge, Furry Lewis and Dickinson’s band Mud Boy and the Neutrons, and played on Dylan’s album Time Out of Mind. In 1998, he produced Mudhoney’s, Tomorrow Hit Today. There was the Flamin Groovies’ album Teenage Head. So many I can’t name them all.

In his last years, Jim’s vitality stayed high— at his own north Mississippi studio, Zebra Ranch, Jim produced the music of his sons, the North Mississippi Allstars, and created the Delta Experimental Projects and B.A.D. Records. Jim used to praise the raw intuitive energy of Rock, saying, “a song can be so bad it’s good.”

Now, his sons, Luther and Cody Dickinson, great music-makers known worldwide, also salute their father’s genius— with continuity, keeping Jim’s studio and his wild artistic vision alive. Visit and see for yourself.

We salute Jim because he made our world better; Jim created a powerful creative space out of his own spirit. We salute Jim because he lived the life of an artist, relentlessly self-inventing.

Jim’s energy is forever. Like Jim himself once prophetically said, “I’m just dead, I’m not gone.”

And that is what we must all learn, isn’t it? To fire up our energy and fight to become who we truly are?

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