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National Obituary Review

Dead Person of the Day – February 12 – Screamin’ Jay Hawkins

No Comments 12 February 2013

Folks,

Today we celebrate the music industry’s first shock rocker – Screamin’ Jay Hawkins.

Without Hawkins the likes of Ozzy Osbourne and, later, Marilyn Manson, would have never  manifested and our comfort zones would be much worse off.

Hawkins will be best remembered for his song “I Put a Spell on You” which went on to be covered by Creedence Clearwater, Nina Simone and many, many others.

As a precocious child Hawkins originally showed interest and talent for opera. But upon leaving the military in the early 1950s in a still segregated America he found making it in the opera world difficult. As a way to pay the bills he took up the burgeoning R&B music scene which was much more welcoming.

After recording ‘I’ll Put A Spell On You’ as a standard ballad without success in the 1950s, Hawkins was persuaded to try again. But the producer of the session wanted to loosen up Hawkins and the band before getting to work to replicate their condition before a live date. So he got them drunk. But judging by some of the videos of that performance I’d guess some cocaine was mixed in somewhere along the way.

“I don’t remember making the record,” Hawkins said conce told Barret Hansen, the rock music expert who is better known as radio’s Dr. Demento. Remembered or not, the record changed Hawkins’ career.

“I’ll put a bone in my nose, wear my cape, make fire come from my fingertips,” Hawkins said in an interview some years ago. “People go ape. That’s what the public wants. I’d better give them what they want because they’re paying the freight.”

Finally, Hawkins lived his life by a one of the wisest mantras I’ve ever heard:

“I came into this world black, naked and ugly. And no matter how much I accumulate here, it’s a short journey. I will go out of this world black, naked and ugly. So I enjoy life,”

Amen.

Soggy obits on a Tuesday!

Screamin’ Jay Hawkins; Rhythm and Blues Singer

JON THURBER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, a legendary rhythm and blues singer with an outrageous theatrical bent that led him to pop out of a coffin onstage, died Saturday in a hospital near Paris. He was 70. Continue


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