Book Review: I'm Just Dead, I'm Not Gone

Jim Dickinson

I'm Just Dead, I'm Not Gone

The death of James Luther Dickinson (1941-2009) didn't quite close the book on one of rock & roll's contradictory geniuses. Whether serving as pianist on the Rolling Stones' "Wild Horses" or producing recorded masterpieces including Big Star's Third and the Replacements' Pleased to Meet Me, Dickinson celebrated craftsmanship, artistry, and primitivism. It cost him, too, as with beautiful failure the Dixie Flyers, the Memphis-bred rhythm section he created at Atlantic Records head Jerry Wexler's commission for Miami's Criteria Studios, the cushiest job Dickinson ever held. Yet, such petty trifles never dimmed his spirit. Born to a Tennessean family successful enough to have a black groundskeeper, Dickinson writes of his musical education at the hands of said yardman – and Elvis Presley – as well as his tenure at Waco's Baylor University, where he discovered theatre, beat verse, and participated in some of the earliest LSD clinical trials. All of it becomes a byproduct of his youthful discovery of the Memphis Jug Band playing in an alley, which birthed his lifelong yen for "wild music that seemed about to spin out of control." Named for his self-generated epitaph and detailing his life up to 1972 in the literary equivalent of his grinning trickster drawl, I'm Just Dead, I'm Not Gone details an essential chapter of rock & roll history.

I’m Just Dead, I’m Not Gone

by Jim Dickinson
University Press of Mississippi, 267 pp., $25
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