Willie Mitchell RIP


The Mighty Willie Mitchell


Listen/Download -Willie Mitchell – That Driving Beat

Listen/Download -Willie Mitchell – Up Hard

Listen/Download -Willie Mitchell – My Babe

Greetings all.

I come to you today with some sad news, that being the passing of the giant of Memphis soul and R&B, Mr. Willie Mitchell.
Mitchell is best known – at least to those outside of hardcore soulies – as the man who made Hi Records a major force in soul music, especially via his productions for Al Green, Syl Johnson, Ann Peebles, O.V. Wright and many others.
Mitchell, who was born in Ashland, Mississippi – got his start as a trumpet playing bandleaders in Memphis before joing Joe Coughi’s Hi label in 1959 as an artist, producer, and arranger. Following Coughi’s death in 1970, Mitchell ended up bringing the label its greatest success.
The music of Willie Mitchell (as performer and producer) has been a constant presence in the Funky16Corners Radio podcasts, and the three songs I bring you today all appeared in those mixes over the last three years.
The first two, ‘That Driving Beat’ and ‘Up Hard’ are both Mod soul classics.
1965’s ‘That Driving Beat’ is a slamming dancer in a Junior Walker stylee, with blaring tenor sax, a horn section that sounds like the model for Otis Redding’s version of Satisfaction’ and unlike most of his records from this period, vocals.
‘Up Hard’, written by (and featuring) organist Art Jerry Miller (who went on to record his own album for the Stax subsidiary Enterprise) mixes a tight horn section with a powerful, gritty guitar line and pounding drums. The 1968 single was released with two different B-sides.
The final track, Mitchell’s 1969 cover of Willie Dixon’s ‘My Babe’ is a 45 that I slept on for YEARS. There it sat in my crates, picked up at some flea market or other for a pittance, all but ignored. Never a huge fan of the song itself, I finally pulled it out one day and gave it a spin, and was promptly blown away. There, nestled in the grooves of a record that I had long suspected was a run of the mill R&B/soul instrumental, was a sizzling bit of organ funk that has had a place of honor in my DJ box ever since.
These tunes by no means represent a comprehensive sampling of Willie Mitchell’s career. They’re just three of his records that I like a lot.
I suspect that other – in particular Red Kelly of the B-Side – will be posting long form tributes to the greatness of Willie Mitchell.
Dig the tunes, and I’ll be back on Friday.




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PS Head over to Iron Leg for some early Leon Russell.

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18 Responses to “Willie Mitchell RIP”

  1. Willie Mitchell, RIP - Hit & Run : Reason Magazine Says:

    […] collaborations with Green here, and Funky 16 Corners has posted three of Mitchell's instrumentals here. And here's my favorite of the songs he produced for O.V. […]

  2. halfhearteddude Says:

    I was listening to a Mitchell collection on Sunday. I hate it when I listen to somebody for the first time in a while, and then learn of their death.

    Often forgotten is that Mitchell produced Scottish 80s popsters Wet Wet Wet in his Memphis studio, before the group recorded their full debut. As the producer, he was something of a co-star, appearing with the group on a photo on the back cover. I posted a couple of tracks from that album, including the Wets’ cover of Mitchell’s This Time”, over at my joint, if you’re interested: http://halfhearteddude.wordpress.com/2009/10/07/wetx3/

  3. HeavySoulBrutha DaveB. Says:

    Yes indeed! “My Babe” is a MONSTER cut. Gonna have to find me one of those.

    Peace and SOUL,
    HSB DaveB…

  4. Alex S. Says:

    In my opinion, THE best producer that ever lived. Flawless production values, amazing percussion sounds, timeless studio work, a genius & a giant of modern popular music. I hope Al Green pays tribute to him down here in Australia in three days, where he is set to appear as part of the Sydney festival. Rest In Peace brother Willie, Right On!!

  5. Patrick Says:

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


    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.

  6. Soulkombinat Says:

    Willie Mitchell gestorben…

    Keyboarder und wicked Hammond-Spieler Wllie Mitchell ist gestorben, wie Larry von Funky 16 Corners meldet. Mitchell is best known – at least to those outside of hardcore soulies – as the man who made Hi Records a major force in soul music, especially v…

  7. Tim Says:

    I was unfamiliar with the original version of Up Hard posted here…I only knew the version by Ike Turner, which is great.

  8. A Soul Serenade « The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ Says:

    […] underestimating Mitchell’s contribution to our musical heritage. Check the brief tribute at Funky16Corners, and/or listen to Mitchell’s lone Top 40 hit as a solo artist, “Soul Serenade,” […]

  9. Stu Says:

    I too was listening to a Willie Mitchell collection probably hours before he died -(UK time). So sad to hear of a passing of yet another legend.

  10. Merci Willie Mitchell « A Bout Portant Says:

    […] Funky 16 Corners & Wax Poetics […]

  11. chiltonbell Says:

    good obituary on this UK site http://caughtbytheriver.net/2010/01/caught-by-the-reaper-willie-mitchell/

  12. Thursday January 7/10 Playlist « The Music of My Mind Says:

    […] singer/producer teams in popular music history. Check the Funky 16 Corners for their expansive homage to Willie. Rest in Peace Mr. […]

  13. Hip Hop Culture-Radioshow since 1998 | Links + Rechts: Turntablism Gadgets, Digital Blackbook, Brother Ali, Cut Chemist, Statik Selektah, Poirier, Willie Mitchell Says:

    […] den Tod des Memphis-Soul und R&B-Sängers Willie Mitchell (via […]

  14. citrus Says:


  15. R.I.P. Papa Willie Mitchell « Says:

    […] Indeed. Thanks for the great music. […]

  16. The Blowin Weekly Extra – Icicles | BCB Radios Music Blog - Untitled Noise Says:

    […] https://funky16corners.wordpress.com/2010/01/05/willie-mitchell-rip/ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willie_Mitchell_(musician) […]

  17. Stevie G (Jam-Cork) Says:


    The legend that is Willie Mitchell passed away last Tuesday. He was an amazing musician and producer for over 50 years and even recently he was making great records. Al Green, Ann Peebles, O.V. Wright, Syl Johnson and many more benefited from his unique southern soul sound, and I love his music so much that I’ve gathered some of my favourites together in a mix that I broadcast on my Black on Red show last Saturday, paying homage to a musical legend. If you like this please go and investigate further his amazing catalogue and delve deeper into the work of these great singers. Some of this music is well known, while much of it is under-rated and under-recognised, despite heavy sampling from the likes of the RZA. It deserves a wider audience. Willie Mitchell R.I.P.

    Love And Happiness Al Green
    Call me Al Green
    Tired Of Being Alone Al Green
    i’m still in love with you Al Green
    Let’s Stay Together Al Green
    I’m Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down Ann Peebles
    Anyone But You Syl Johnson
    All Because Al Green
    Come To Mama Ann Peebles
    Get Back Baby Al Green
    Trying to Live My Life Without You O.V. Wright
    You Say It Al Green
    you ought to be with me Al Green
    I Want to Hold Your Hand Al Green
    Let It Shine Al Green
    L.o.v.e. Al Green
    If I Could Reach Out Otis Clay
    I Only Have Love Syl Johnson
    Sha-La-La (Make Me Happy) Al Green
    Gotta Find a New World Al Green
    lets get married Al Green
    full of fire Al Green
    Take Me to the River Syl Johnson
    take me to the river Al Green
    Back For A Taste Of Your Love Syl Johnson
    Keep Me Cryin’ Al Green
    Young People Willie Mitchell
    Slipped, Tripped And Fell In Love Ann Peebles
    That Ain’t Right Woman Don Bryant
    The Champion Willie Mitchell
    That Driving Beat Willie Mitchell/Various
    My Babe Willie Mitchell
    Groovin’ Willie Mitchell
    Soul Serenade Willie Mitchell
    True Love Al Green
    Star Bright Star Lite Syl Johnson
    Here I Am (Come And Take Me) Al Green
    I’ve Never Found A Girl Al Green
    look what you done for me Al Green
    Don’t Do It Syl Johnson
    Keepin’ Down Confusion Syl Johnson
    livin for you Al Green
    So Good to Be Here Al Green
    Nickle And A Nail O.V. Wright
    A Long Road O.V. Wright
    For The Good Times Al Green
    Let’s Straighten It Out O.V. Wright
    Trouble, Heartaches & Sadness Ann Peebles
    I Can’t Stand The Rain Ann Peebles
    I’m Glad You’re Mine Al Green
    Strong As Death (Sweet As Love) Al Green
    Could I Be Fallin’ In Love Syl Johnson
    I Can’t Get Next to You Al Green
    A Little More Time O.V. Wright
    How can you mend a broken heart? Al Green

    also free download of my Stevie Wonder documentary too


  18. soul tellers Says:

    Watch these beautiful moments of Willie Mitchell recording with a Spanish Soul Singer Miguel Julian go goes under the name of the soul tellers. A real connection was made.
    Two fantastic Soul men working together:


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