Photo of Koko TAYLOR

Photo of Koko TAYLOR (Jan Persson, Redferns / January 1, 1970)

They are the overlooked of the literary world, and so you never hear mentioned the names of William James Dixon or Cora Walton or McKinley Morganfield when people gather to talk about great Chicago writers.

Don't know those names? Understandable. But you certainly would know them by their stage names, and therein lies part of the problem with their lack of literary recognition. They are Willie Dixon, Koko Taylor and Muddy Waters, respectively … and, frankly, respectfully.


This piece first ran in Printers Row Journal, delivered to Printers Row members with the Sunday Chicago Tribune and by digital edition via email. Click here to learn about joining Printers Row.


Mr. Dixon, have at it.

Tell Automatic Slim, tell Razor Totin' Jim

Tell Butcher Knife Totin' Annie, tell Fast Talking Fanny

A we gonna pitch a ball, a down to that union hall

We gonna romp and tromp till midnight

We gonna fuss and fight till daylight

We gonna pitch a wang dang doodle all night long

All night long

All night long

All night long.

Those who write lyrics are so rarely, outside musical circles, accorded the respect that even the most hackneyed novelists or puerile poets or self-published/self-indulgent memoirists are likely to receive. This is primarily because songwriters' words are accompanied (overshadowed) by music and whatever the level of performance visuals, so they tend to be taken for granted or be looked at as a small part of a larger package. That's a shame.

Here, read this:

I hope the world's not over, for my sake and for his.

I'd love for everyone to know how brilliant Joey is.

We've been down here for six months now, and we're proud to be alive.

We owe it to America to sit here and survive.