|Also known as||Barney Williams|
August 7, 1931|
|Origin||Brooklyn, New York|
|Died||October 22, 2009
|Genres||Rhythm and blues, doo-wop, pop, soul, rock and roll|
|Occupations||Songwriter, record producer, singer|
|Years active||1954–late 1960s|
|Labels||Scepter, Wand, Ludix, Musicor|
|Associated acts||The Shirelles, The Four Buddies, The Platters|
Luther Dixon (7 August 1931 – 22 October 2009) was an American songwriter, record producer, and singer. Dixon's songs achieved their greatest success in the 1950s and 60s, and were recorded by Elvis Presley, The Beatles, The Jackson 5, B.B. King, Dusty Springfield, and others. As a producer, Dixon helped create the signature sound of the girl group The Shirelles.
Dixon began his professional career in 1954 with The Four Buddies, a doo-wop group led by Larry Harrison, in which Dixon sang baritone and occasionally played guitar. The Four Buddies recorded for Savoy Records, but also as The Barons for Decca Records and as The Buddies for Glory Records. The group disbanded in 1955, but Dixon and Harrison continued writing songs together. Their biggest hit was "Why Baby Why", recorded by Pat Boone, which peaked at #5 in 1957.
Dixon and Billy Dawn Smith wrote the 1957 Perry Como song "Just Born (To Be Your Baby)", which reached #12. In 1958, Bobby Darin recorded "All the Way Home", written by Dixon and Otis Blackwell, which was released on Darin's 1960 album For Teenagers Only. Dixon and Clyde Otis wrote the song "Doncha' Think It's Time", recorded by Elvis Presley in 1958 and included on his famous 1959 album, 50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can't Be Wrong. Also in 1958, Dixon and Allyson Khent wrote "16 Candles", which was recorded by The Crests and reached #2.
In 1960, after being approached by Florence Greenberg of Scepter Records, Dixon began working with The Shirelles. The first song Dixon produced with The Shirelles was "Tonight's the Night", co-written by the group's lead singer Shirley Owens. The song reached #39 in 1960, and another recording of the song by The Chiffons reached #76. The Shirelles then reached #1 with "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" (written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin). Dixon wrote the B-side to that single, "Boys". The Shirelles' 1961 song "Baby It's You", written by Dixon (credited as Barney Williams), Burt Bacharach, and Mack David, reached #8. Both "Boys" and "Baby It's You" were later recorded by The Beatles on their debut LP, Please Please Me. The Shirelles' 1962 song "Soldier Boy", written by Dixon and Florence Greenberg, was their final song to reach #1.
Greenberg started a second record company, Wand Records, in 1961. Dixon wrote and produced many songs for the Wand and Scepter labels, including the 1961 Chuck Jackson single "I Don't Want to Cry", co-written by Jackson himself, which reached #36. Jimmy Reed's 1961 hit "Big Boss Man" was written by Dixon and Al Smith. This song was listed by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as one of the 500 "Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll".
With these successes, Dixon was approached by Capitol Records to set up his own record label, Ludix Records, but Ludix was unsuccessful. In 1966, Dixon was producing The Platters for Musicor Records. Their songs "I Love You 1000 Times" (#31, 1966) and "With This Ring" (#14, 1967)—their biggest hits since leaving Mercury Records—were both produced and co-written by Dixon.
By the late 1960s, Dixon's style of music had greatly faded from popular music charts. He received a surge of popularity after "16 Candles" was used in the 1973 George Lucas film American Graffiti, and again when the 1984 John Hughes film Sixteen Candles included a performance of the song by Stray Cats. "Boys" was included in the 2009 video game The Beatles: Rock Band. Dixon's song "Never Let Me Go" was performed by Jane Monheit in the film adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro's novel with same title. Dixon was nominated for the Songwriters Hall of Fame one week before he died.
- Cartwright, Garth (11 November 2009). "Luther Dixon obituary". The Guardian (Guardian.co.uk).
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- Leigh, Spencer (18 December 2009). "Luther Dixon: Songwriter and producer responsible for a slew of hits including '16 Candles'". The Independent (Independent.co.uk).
- "Just Born (To Be Your Baby)". Kokomo.ca.
- "The Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll". Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.