September 26th, 2011
Jessy Dixon, a singer and songwriter who helped popularize gospel music with his energetic style and who found a wider audience touring and recording with Paul Simon, died on Monday at his home in Chicago. He was 73.
His sister, Miriam Dixon, said he had been sick for over a year but declined to provide details.
Mr. Dixon wrote more than 200 songs in a career that spanned five decades. He was perhaps best known for his 1993 hit “I Am Redeemed,” which remained on the gospel and Christian charts for five years. He also composed songs for several pop singers, among them Randy Crawford, Cher, Diana Ross, Natalie Cole and Amy Grant.
Though he was already well known in gospel circles, Mr. Dixon reached the mainstream pop-music audience in the 1970s, when he collaborated with Mr. Simon on the albums “Paul Simon in Concert: Live Rhymin’ ” (a follow-up to Mr. Simon’s hit album “There Goes Rhymin’ Simon”) and “Still Crazy After All These Years.” The two musicians had met at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1972, and Mr. Simon was impressed with his vocals.
Mr. Dixon and his group, the Jessy Dixon Singers, toured with Mr. Simon for the next eight years. Mr. Dixon also played keyboard with the funk group Earth, Wind and Fire and collaborated with the guitarist Phil Upchurch.
But these were side projects. It was in the gospel genre that he left an important musical mark, releasing 18 albums between 1964 and 2006 — five of them went gold — and touring worldwide until 2001. After his work with Paul Simon, Mr. Dixon built a large following in Europe.
Born on March 12, 1938, in San Antonio, Texas, Mr. Dixon studied classical piano as a boy and started singing as a teenager at the Refuge Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The son of a porter and a seamstress, he went to a local Catholic college on a scholarship but dropped out to pursue a career as a musician. At 17, he was touring and playing black churches in California, Texas and Louisiana.
It was during a performance at a theater in San Antonio in 1957 that the Rev. James Cleveland, the great Chicago-based gospel musician, discovered Mr. Dixon and asked him to move to Chicago. There he became a pianist and singer with Mr. Cleveland’s group, The Original Chimes.
Mr. Dixon told The Associated Press in 1997 that being a young musician on Chicago’s South Side in the 1960s was like getting an advanced degree in blues and gospel music. “Going to church was like going to school,” he said.
In the mid-1960s, Mr. Dixon started composing choral music for the Thompson Community Singers, and some of his early songs have become church standards, including “Sit at His Feet and Be Blessed” and “I Love to Praise His Name.”
Ms. Dixon said that her brother enjoyed a close friendship with Mr. Simon and that he had enjoyed his time playing pop music. But she said that he was also a deeply religious man who taught Bible classes, quoted scripture in everyday conversation, and often had friends over to his house to sing hymns.
“What you saw onstage was what he was,” she said. “He was for real. He loved the Lord.”
Jessy Dixon was born on March 12th, 1938
March 12th, 1938
3 + 12 +2+0+1+1 = 19 = his personal year (from March 12th, 2011 to March 11th, 2012) = Enduring achievements.
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