Happy Birthday Lowell George: Covering Little Feat’s ‘Willin’’
Co-founding Little Feat guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Lowell George was born in Hollywood on this date in 1945. George was only 34 at the time of his tragic and untimely death due to a drug-induced heart attack on June 29, 1979.
His short but influential career as a member of Little Feat, solo artist, session musician and producer left an indelible mark on the landscape of American rock ‘n’ roll music. Perhaps his best known and most revered original composition was the Little Feat classic “Willin.’”
George wrote “Willin’” in 1968 while a member of Frank Zappa’s Mothers Of Invention, a group he joined after having been in the Los Angeles-based band The Factory. Myths surrounding the genesis of “Willin’” developed in subsequent years: Zappa either fired George because the song’s lyrics referenced drugs or because it was too stylistically different or too good or … something else entirely.
Regardless, George’s leaving Zappa’s group directly led to the formation of Little Feat who included a version of “Willin’” on their 1971 self-titled debut with Ry Cooder filling in on guitar for an injured George. A second, more elaborate arrangement of the song was subsequently recorded for Little Feat’s sophomore LP, 1972’s Sailin’ Shoes and a version was included on their landmark 1975 double live album Waiting For Columbus.
Over the years “Willin’” has been covered live and in the studio by acts such as Phish, moe., Warren Haynes, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Gregg Allman, Linda Ronstadt, The Black Crowes, Blackberry Smoke and several others. Below, watch a series of live covers of “Willin’” and by those above performers, and more:
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