Rounding up Willie Mitchell obits, appreciations

The death of legendary Memphis musician and producer Willie Mitchell appears to the the top-ranking Memphis news item of the day, so I thought I'd round up some of the more interesting Pops-related stories and posts for your browsing convenience. If you haven't read Bob Mehr's early story on commercialappeal.com, check it out here; he's updating it throughout the day.

* Jesse Walker of Reason Online posts his favorite Mitchell collaboration with Hi Records artist O.V. Wright, and he links to a collection of Al Green/Mitchell classics and a sampling of Mitchell instrumental favorites from the '60s.

* Variety's obituary covers all the bases, including Mitchell's work with white artists including Jesse Winchester, Paul Butterfield and Wet Wet Wet.

* David Danks, writing for Exclaim.ca, places Mitchell in the Memphis jazz continuum and even mentions a link to Elvis Presley.

More to come throughout the afternoon and evening.

UPDATE:

* Carrie Brownstein of NPR's Monitor Mix blog: "I spent many years tracking down Willie Mitchell 45s in thrift stores and record stores. I still cherish those singles, spinning them at the occasional dance party, but mostly putting them on the turntable when I'm alone, so that I can shuffle my feet and nod my head and twirl around the room in amazement."

UPDATE:

* CNN's story points out that Mitchell's work with Green went beyond merely capturing the singer's voice: "Green has often talked about how important Mitchell was to his sound, working him until his voice was just so -- a difference that can be heard on his pre-Mitchell songs, such as 'Back Up Train.'"

UPDATE: Many more Mitchell obituaries are out today:

* The New York Times points out that, fair or not, Hi Records is usually No. 3 on the typical rundown of Memphis labels (after Sun and Stax). Here's a nice quote from Al Bell:

"We had just gone past what was called race music and blues, which was looked down upon, to this R&B, this soul," Al Bell, a former owner of Stax who is chairman of the Memphis Music Foundation, said in an interview on Tuesday. "We worked with each other so we could grow and improve our music, and Willie provided that kind of leadership. His handprint, thumbprint, footprint, heart print is all over Memphis music."

And one from the deceased himself, describing that lazy yet insistent groove:

"It's the laziness of the rhythm," Mr. Mitchell said in Peter Guralnick's 1986 book "Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm and Blues and the Southern Dream of Freedom." "You hear those old lazy horns half a beat behind the music, and you think they're gonna miss it, and all of a sudden, just so lazy, they come in and start to sway with it. It's like kind of shucking you, putting you on."

* Here is The Recording Academy's official obit. The Academy honored Mitchell in 2008 with its Trustees Award, his first-ever Grammy.

7 Comments

The Lasting Tribute website in the UK has updated its memorial pages to include Willie Mitchell.

http://www.lastingtribute.co.uk/tribute/mitchell/3221882

It's a respectful memorial to the man and his work and somewhere to pay tribute to the family's fortitude at this difficult time.

And they monitor EVERY comment so that nothing offensive or inappropriate is published.

TO THE FAMILY OF MR. MITCHELL, I SEND MY REGRETS, AS FOR ' GOD' HAS SAW FIT TO CALL ANOTHER ONE OF HIS CHILDREN ON HOME.
THE WORLD WILL TRULY MISS THE PRESENCE OF HIS BEING.
I AM CURRENTLY AWAY FROM THE CITY, IN MY HEART THE LOVE AND ADMIRATION WILL FOREVER REMAIN.

R\B VOCALIST SHIRITA GRANT

Is it just me, or are there an awful lot of commonalities between the deaths of Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley?

I love golfing, and your post has definitely helped my level of knowledge, so many blessings for that!

Good post, thanks

Mitchell will be dearly missed. As his music was incredible.

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Deputy Online News Editor Mark Richens takes you through all the news about Memphis from sources outside the Mid-South.