For more than 50 years, Jim Dickinson has been helping a wide range of artists create some of the most memorable music of all time. Now, local and national music communities are rallying around the venerable Memphis pianist and producer as he recovers from a series of life-threatening health problems.
During the course of his half-century career, Dickinson has built a reputation as a session player for the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan, a producer for Big Star and the Replacements, a sometime solo artist, and patriarch of a small musical dynasty that includes sons Cody and Luther Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars.
But over the last couple months, the 67-year-old Dickinson has undergone several major medical procedures, including triple bypass surgery, that have kept him in the hospital.
As he continues to recover, a group of fans and fellow musicians will be honoring and aiding him with a series of benefit concerts in Memphis and Los Angeles.
The Memphis concert will be at The Peabody Skyway on Aug. 8 and will feature singer/songwriter John Hiatt, Amy LaVere the North Mississippi Allstars, Sid Selvidge and Jimmy Crosthwait, Shannon McNally, and Jimbo Mathus, among others. Tickets go on sale today.
Dickinson's health woes began following a high-profile performance with Elvis Costello at the Beale Street Music Festival in May.
After a physical revealed serious cardiac issues, Dickinson was immediately sent into surgery where doctors at Methodist Le Bonheur Hospital in Germantown put in a pair of stents, then sent him home to rest up for bypass surgery.
Dickinson was in good health and spirits when The Commercial Appeal caught up with him at his Coldwater, Miss., home in late May, to talk about the release of his new album, Dinosaurs Run in Circles. He remarked that he was feeling like "a new man" and that the stents had actually helped the flow of blood and oxygen and decreased the arthritis in his hands, making piano playing a joy once again.
However, just before he was to celebrate the CD release with a show at Huey's on May 31, he had to be rushed back to the hospital with complications.
He remained there before finally undergoing triple bypass surgery on June 24. Two days later he went into cardiac arrest. He was revived and spent the past few weeks recuperating in the cardiac intensive care unit.
Earlier this week, Dickinson was relocated to a rehabilitation facility. He's expected to make a slow, but full recovery under the watchful eye of his wife, Mary Lindsay Dickinson, though no timetable has been set for his return home.
"He's feeling better," says his son, Luther Dickinson. "We're maybe hoping he can get back home in the next few weeks, and that he'll be back to his normal self before too long. That's what we're all praying for."
Given Dickinson's mounting medical bills and the fact that he will be unable to work indefinitely, a group of family, friends and fellow musicians -- led by Luther Dickinson and Memphis International records head David Less -- have banded together to stage a pair of benefit concerts in Memphis and Los Angeles.
The Memphis benefit in August will be held under the aegis of Sid Selvidge's nonprofit Beale Street Caravan Foundation.
"Everybody was real enthusiastic about being a part of it," says Luther Dickinson of the artists involved.
A Los Angeles benefit for Dickinson is being planned for later this year, or possibly in early 2010, with performers yet to be announced.
Jim Dickinson Benefit Concert
Featuring John Hiatt, North Mississippi Allstars, and Amy LaVere, among others. 6 p.m. Aug. 8, at The Peabody Skyway, 149 Union Ave. Tickets go on sale today. Single tickets start at $125; tables for 10 are $1,000 and "Golden Circle" tables cost $2,000. Checks are tax-deductible and can be made out to Beale Street Caravan Inc., and mailed to: Ardent Records, 2000 Madison Ave. Memphis, TN 38104. For more information or to purchase, contact Elizabeth Montgomery Brown with Ardent Studio at (901) 725-0855.