Screamin Jay Hawkins

Screamin Jay Hawkins

African American rock musician
Date of Birth: 18.07.1929
Country: USA

  1. Biography of Jay Hawkins
  2. Early Life and Career
  3. Solo Career and Iconic Song
  4. Later Career and Legacy

Biography of Jay Hawkins

Jay Hawkins was an African American rock and rhythm-and-blues musician, singer, and songwriter. He was one of the most well-known and influential American musicians of the 1950s.

Screamin Jay Hawkins

Early Life and Career

Born on July 18, 1929, in Cleveland, Ohio, Jay Hawkins grew up in a large family. As a child, he was inspired by the work of Paul Robeson and aspired to become an opera singer. He began learning to play the piano in 1933. In 1943, he started boxing and became the middleweight champion of Alaska in 1949. During World War II, he served in the Pacific Fleet.

Screamin Jay Hawkins

In 1951, Hawkins began his career as a musician, collaborating with guitarist Tiny Grimes. He captivated audiences with his unique stage costumes, including a Scottish kilt, leopard skin clothing, and metal cans attached to his wrists. From 1952 to 1953, he recorded several songs with Grimes' group.

Solo Career and Iconic Song

In 1954, Hawkins started his solo recordings with the songs "Baptize Me in Wine" and "I Put a Spell on You," which became his signature song. These recordings were characterized by his extravagant style, including raspy wails and other vocal techniques. He later attempted to re-record "I Put a Spell on You" while heavily intoxicated, with equally drunk musicians. This recording gained popularity in the conservative United States during the Eisenhower era.

Hawkins continued to record new songs in his self-invented style, which he called "ghoul-rock." Some of these songs included "Constipation Blues," "Orange Colored Sky," and "Feast of the Mau Mau." However, they did not achieve the same level of popularity as "I Put a Spell on You."

Later Career and Legacy

Throughout the following decades, Hawkins toured extensively in the United States and Europe. He received tribute songs from artists like Serge Gainsbourg and Nina Simone, who performed their own versions of "I Put a Spell on You." He also gained imitator bands. However, his fame gradually waned with the emergence of new musical styles and popular groups.

The revival of "I Put a Spell on You" came with Jim Jarmusch's film "Stranger than Paradise" in 1984. This led to a resurgence in Hawkins' popularity, prompting him to actively tour and collaborate with The Clash and Nick Cave. He also recorded cover versions of songs by Tom Waits, including "Heart Attack and Vine" and "Ice Cream Man."

In turn, Hawkins' songs were covered by artists such as Marilyn Manson and Diamanda Galas.

Jay Hawkins passed away on February 12, 2000, following surgery for an aneurysm.