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Hawkins, Screamin’ Jay

Screamin Jay Hawkins

Singer, songwriter

First Recording Stint Nearly Ended Career

I Put a Spell on You

Transition Beyond 1950s Difficult

Film Career Proved Fruitful

Selected discography

Sources

One of rocks true wild men, Screamin Jay Hawkins burst on the music scene with a 1956 hit called I Put A Spell On You and a frenzied stage show that included a coffin, a skull on a stick, and mock voodoo shrieks. Born Jalacy J. Hawkins in Cleveland, Ohio, on July 18, 1929, the singer was one of several children (the number varies, even according to Hawkinss own account). He was placed in an orphanage as an infant and adopted at the age of 18 months. By the time Hawkins was four he showed an interest in the piano and soon learned to read and write music. He admired singers Paul Robeson and Enrico Caruso and studied opera at the Ohio Conservatory of Music. As a boy, he played piano in Cleveland night spots for tips. And in his teens, Hawkins made successful boxing appearances in local Golden Gloves competition.

In 1944 Hawkins dropped out of high school and joined the military. Accounts of his years in the service differ; the most accepted version is that he joined the Special Services and entertained U.S. troops at home and in Germany, Japan, and Korea. Hawkins himself, however, has claimed that he fought in the Pacific. I got caught on the island of Saipan he told Karen Schoemer of the New York Times. Our drop zone was right in the middle of the enemy compound.... Before we could get the straps of the parachutes off, we were in the enemys hands. We never got a chance to fire a shot.... It was 18 months before we got rescued. Aside from entertaining the troops, Hawkins worked as a boxer throughout the 1940s, even winning the middleweight championship of Alaska in 1949.

First Recording Stint Nearly Ended Career

After leaving the army in 1952, Hawkins took a job as musician and chauffeur with jazz bandleader Tiny Grimes. According to Gerry Hirsheys book Nowhere to Run, Hawkins didnt much like the jazz music or Grimess carin which he had to sleep most nights. What he really wanted to do was play the new post-War blues. It was these blues, a raw, danceable music, that was on Hawkinss mind in 1953 when he accompanied Grimes to a recording session for Atlantic Records. The fledgling label had already scored hits with Ruth Brown, Big Joe Turner, and Ray Charles and was cultivating a smooth mixture of pop and rhythm and blues. Grimes had agreed to let Hawkins sing a couple of his own tunes if the main recording session went well.

Hawkins did get his chance, but when he launched into a raucous version of a tune he had written called Screamin Blues, pop-minded Atlantic chief Ahmet Ertegun found his vocals too raw and tried to get Hawkins to sing smoothlylike popular 1950s crooner

For the Record

Born Jalacy J. Hawkins (changed name c. 1954), July 18, 1929, in Cleveland, OH. Education: Studied opera at the Cleveland Conservatory of Music.

Singer, songwriter, pianist. Boxer, 1940s; middleweight champion of Alaska, 1949. Performed with Tiny Grimes band, 1952-54; performed with Fats Domino, 1954-55, at Smalls Paradise, Harlem, NY, and in Atlantic City, NJ, clubs; began solo career, signed with Okeh records, and released I Put a Spell on You, 1955; performed on radio, beginning 1956; performed at clubs in Hawaii and military bases in the Far East, 1960s, and in Hawaii, New York, and Europe, 1970s; recorded with Rolling Stone Keith Richards, 1979, and opened for the Rolling Stones, 1980; toured the U.S., mid 1980s; made commercials in Japan for Sony. Film appearances include American Hot Wax, 1978, Mystery Train, 1990, and A Rage in Harlem, 1991. Military service: U.S. Army/Air Force, Special Services Division, 1945-52.

Addresses: Record company Bizarre Records, 740 North La Brea Ave., 2nd floor, Los Angeles, CA 90038-3339. Management Glitter Management Company, 833 North Orange Grove Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90046.

Fats Domino. In the ensuing argument Hawkins nearly ended his career by trying to strike Ertegun. Needless to say, Screamin Blues was never released.

Shortly after the Atlantic fiasco, Hawkins split with Grimes and began drifting between bandseven spending time in Dominos groupbefore getting his first solo gig at Smalls Paradise in New York Citys Harlem. It was at Smalls, and later at clubs in Atlantic City, New Jersey, that Jalacy J. Hawkins transformed himself into Screamin Jay Hawkins.

I Put a Spell on You

In 1955 Hawkins signed with Okeh Records. Okeh producer Arnold Maxim wanted Hawkins to record I Put A Spell On You, a song Hawkins had written the previous year and had already recorded for the Grand label. The earlier version of the song that would become Hawkinss signature was subdued; Maxim wanted it wild. [Maxim] got everybody drunk, Hawkins told the Los Angeles Times, and we came out with this weird version. I dont even remember making the record. Before, I was just a normal blues singer. I was just Jay Hawkins. It all sort of just fell in place. I found out I could do more destroying a song and screaming it to death.

Spell was a sensation; at first it was banned. They said it was cannibalistic, that it sounded like a man eating somebody, Hawkins told the Washington Post. So Okeh edited the offensive portions and the song became a hit. In fact, Hawkins exploited the cannibal controversy for all it was worth. I stuck the bone in my nose, he told the Post, put on white shoe polish, combed my hair straight up and got naked with a piece of cloth around my loins, had a spear and shield.... So whats wrong with acting like a wild warrior? The NAACP [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People] and CORE [Congress of Racial Equality] didnt like it, said I was making fun of the black people.... I said... Im making a living. Im not breaking the law. How dare you?

In 1956 Hawkins began appearing in New York disc jockey Alan Freeds legendary package shows. Freed liked Hawkins and persuaded him to begin making his entrance in a coffin. According to Nowhere to Run, Hawkins was at first reluctant to get into the coffin, but after Freed offered him $2,000 for the stunt, he agreed to make it a part of the act. Though the untamed stage antics, coffin routine, and I Put A Spell on You kept Hawkinss career going for many years, the savage persona also proved to be a liability. Mike Boehm of the Los Angeles Times reported that Hawkins fell into a pre-show ritual of imbibing while listening to favorite records to psyche himself up for the transformation into Screamin Jay. Hawkins told Boehm, I figured I couldnt sing the song unless I was drunk.

Transition Beyond 1950s Difficult

Like many 1950s rockers, Hawkins had a difficult time in the following decade. He worked clubs in Hawaii and toured military bases in the Far East. His biggest successes came in Europe, where he continued to enjoy wide popularity. In England, he found imitators in Screamin Lord Sutch, Arthur Brown, and the rock band Black Sabbath. In 1967 Hawkins released Feast of the Mau Mau, an album that made no impression on the pop charts but which the Los Angeles Times called fine, fun-house horror stuff.

During the 1970s Hawkins split his time between Hawaii, New York City, where he played in local clubs, and Europe, where he remained a popular attraction. He quit drinking in 1974 and found he could do Spell just as well sober as he could drunk. He also collected royalties from the many cover versions of his songs.

Artists from jazz singer Nina Simone to rockers Creedance Clearwater Revival recorded Spell and other Hawkinspenned tunes. In 1978 the singer appeared in American Hot Wax, the film biography of disc jockey Freed. The following year Hawkins went into New Yorks Blue Rock Studio with Rolling Stone Keith Richards, who lent his guitar to Armpit #6 and a new version of Spell. The collaboration was such a success that in 1980 Hawkins opened for the Rolling Stones at Madison Square Garden.

Interest in Hawkins mounted in earnest in 1984 when film director Jim Jarmusch used I Put a Spell on You as the centerpiece of his cult hit Stranger Than Paradise; a wider audience began to appreciate Hawkinss talents, and he began touring the United States regularly. Before a Boston show he told the Boston Herald, I am going to reach into... [spectators] chests, grab their hearts, fumble with their emotions, and have them walking sideways and eating chop suey with chopsticks out of their ear[s] while wearing a gas mask.

Film Career Proved Fruitful

In 1990 Hawkins appeared as the sardonic night manager of a seedy Memphis hotel in Jarmuschs film Mystery Train, a performance that Karen Schoemer of the New York Times called wonderfully subdued. The 1991 film A Rage in Harlem featured a Hawkins performance of I Put A Spell on You, among other tunes, in one of its pivotal scenes. In Japan, where Hawkins is extremely popular, he has made commercials for Sony. Royalties from the many remakes of his songs bring in a tidy sum every year, and he continues to tour Japan, Europe, and the U.S. regularly.

At times Hawkins continues to be frustrated by the persona he has created for himself; he told the New York Times, For once I want to go out and sing Stardust or Feelings and I want to sing it straight. I want to show that I can do it. But on the whole, Hawkins seems satisfied with his position in the rock and roll stratosphere; I dont want nothin else from this world, he told the Los Angeles Times. I stuck to the roots, and it carried me this far. I have no complaints.

Selected discography

Feast of the Mau Mau, 1967.

Real Life (recorded 1983), EPM, 1989.

Voodoo Jive: The Best of Screamin Jay Hawkins (1954-1969), Rhino, 1990.

Black Music for White People, Bizarre, 1991.

Cow Fingers & Mosquito Pie, Epic/Legacy, 1991.

The Night & Day of Screamin Jay, 52 Rue Est, 1992.

Sources

Books

Hirshey, Gerry, Nowhere to Run, New York Times Books, 1984.

Periodicals

Boston Herald, December 18, 1987.

Living Blues, Spring 1982.

Los Angeles Times, April 12, 1991.

New York Times, April 5, 1991.

Washington Post, February 3, 1990.

Jordan Wankoff

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Hawkins, Screamin’ Jay 1929–2000

Screamin Jay Hawkins 19292000

Singer

Recorded First Original Track

Elaborate Gimmicks Became a Trademark

Made Film Debut

Selected discography

Sources

Screamin Jay Hawkins, who learned to play piano and read music as a toddler and later studied opera, ultimately found his career niche in 1950s rock and roll. With his classically-trained bass-baritone singing voice, Hawkins conjured up ghoulish images on stage and on his records. Hawkins, evoking voodoo images and using bone-rattling sound effects, simultaneously entertained and bewildered rock n roll fans.

Born Jalacy J. Hawkins on July 18, 1929, in Cleveland, Ohio, Hawkins was adopted from an orphanage when he was 18 months old and raised by a Native American family of the Blackfoot Tribe. Hawkins was a musical prodigy and developed his talent at an early age. As a toddler, he taught himself to play the piano, and he could read music adeptly by the time he was six years old. Then at age 14 he learned to play the saxophone. As a teenager he began boxing professionally, winning a Golden Gloves championship in 1943. He also attended the Ohio Conservatory of Music, where he studied opera.

In 1944, when World War II raged across Europe, Hawkins dropped out of high school and enlisted in the U.S. Army. A member of the special services, he was assigned to entertain the troops. He was reportedly taken prisoner following a paratroop landing off the island of Saipan.

Recorded First Original Track

Hawkins continued to box, winning a middleweight championship in Alaska in 1949. But by 1950 he had lost interest in the sport, electing to pursue a musical career as a rhythm and blues pianist. It was around this time Hawkins, inspired by an enthusiastic fan in West Virginia who had cried out, Scream, baby, scream! during a performance, changed his name to Screamin Jay. Discharged from the military, Hawkins found employment as a chauffeur for jazzman Tiny Grimes in 1952. He eventually joined Grimess band, the Rockin Highlanders, as a vocalist and piano player. Grimes gave Hawkins the opportunity to record an original composition, Why Did You Waste My Time.

Hawkins was constantly at odds with recording executives. His rowdy compositions, such as Screamin Blues, conflicted with the producers belief that audiences preferred soothing, mellow sounds. In 1954 Hawkins joined Fats Dominos band as a pianist, but

At a Glance

Born Jalacy J. Hawkins on July 18, 1929, in Cleveland, OH; died on February 12, 2000, in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France; married six times; fathered (approximately) 57 children. Education: Ohio Conservatory of Music.

Career: Singer. Performed with Tiny Grimes, 1952-54; performed with Fats Domino, 1954-55; signed with Okeh Records and released I Put A Spell On You, 1955; signed with Columbia Records, 1956; Philips Records, 1960s; RCA Records, 1970s; Rhino Records, 1980s; Demon Records, 1990s; performed as a solo act, 1956-90; bandleader, Fuzztones, 1990s; toured United States, Europe, Asia; film appearances: American Hot Wax, 1978; Mystery Train, 1990; and A Rage in Harlem, 1991.

Awards: Pioneer Award, Rhythm and Blues Foundation, 1988.

left the band after problems arose between the two musicians. The combination of Hawkinss uninhibited style and Dominos easy beat simply did not work. Finally, Domino fired Hawkins when he showed up for a performance wearing a leopard skin suit.

Hawkins debuted as a solo performer at Smalls Paradise in Harlem. He eventually moved on to play clubs along Atlantic Citys boardwalk. In 1955 he signed with Okeh Records, where he recorded his first hit, I Put A Spell On You. This song about unrequited love was originally written as a ballad. Hawkins, however, in the midst of a drunken binge when he recorded the composition, added hollering, bellowing, and other bizarre sound effects. Upon hearing the taped version of the record, Hawkins even claimed that he had no memory of the recording session.

Amazingly, in comparison with a subsequent version recorded by Columbia Records the following year, the original recording actually seemed inhibited. Although the Okeh recording failed to sell, Columbias rowdier version became a hit in 1956. Since many people found the noises offensively reminiscent of cannibalistic culture, both versions were edited for radio play, stripping out the bone-rattling sound effects.

Elaborate Gimmicks Became a Trademark

It was popular New York City disc jockey Alan Freed who, inspired by the audio antics of I Put A Spell On You, developed the elaborate gimmicks that became Hawkinss trademark. Freed paid Hawkins to escalate the horror images throughout the performance, including making his stage entrance in a coffin. Hawkinss act evolved into a zany freak show. Often dressed as a vampire, he was carried on stage in a blazing coffin decorated with zebra skin. One popular prop was a cigarette-smoking skull-on-a-stick, affectionately dubbed Henry. Explosions punctuated the act, and Hawkins suffered severe burns on more than one occasion.

Hawkins carried his image to the extreme. At times he appeared wearing a bone through his nose, wearing a turban, or dressed in loincloth and carrying a spear and a shield. Such antics increased his popularity, but also led to criticism. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) voiced concern that Hawkinss cannibalistic illusions might become associated with African Americans in general. On occasion Hawkinss concerts were picketed not only by mothers citing Hawkins for poor taste, but even by the National Coffin Association, which accused Hawkins of poking fun at the dead. Yet concert-goers and record-buyers loved Hawkinss gimmicks and special effects, and, even though his trademark sound effects were stripped entirely from the U.S. release of I Put A Spell On You, the song sold more than one million copies.

Hawkins admitted that his performances, especially his entrance by coffin, gave him chills. Despite a compensation of $2,000 per performance, he found himself unable to perform without the assistance of alcohol and drugs. As a result, he developed a substance dependency.

The novelty of his voodoo-inspired performances peaked in the 1950s, and by the early 1960s, the popularity of Hawkinss act had decreased. He continued to perform, touring largely in Europe where he maintained a following among avant-garde crowds. He also frequently performed in Asia and Hawaii, as well as touring military bases entertaining U.S. troops. It was around this time that Hawkins moved to Hawaii. Among his hit records during the 1960s were I Hear Voices and Feast of the Mau Mau, released in 1967.

Hawkins continued to tour Europe, Hawaii, and New York City throughout the 1970s. In 1974 he successfully conquered his addiction to alcohol and drugs. Meanwhile, I Put a Spell on You experienced a revival, and was recorded by several jazz and rock stars. This provided a substantial royalties income for Hawkins. He collaborated informally with the Rolling Stones and, in 1980, appeared as the opening act for the Rolling Stones Madison Square Garden concert. Also during the 1980s Hawkins worked at the Palomino Club in the San Fernando Valley. There he earned a ghoulish reputation among his friends because he kept the coffin from his shows in his kitchen, using it as a storage cabinet.

Made Film Debut

In 1978 Hawkins appeared as himself in the film American Hot Wax, a docu-drama about Alan Freed. In 1990 Hawkins appeared as an eerie and eccentric hotel manager in Mystery Train. Hawkins next appeared in 1991s Rage in Harlem, singing I Put a Spell on You. Hawkins also played the character of Reggie in the Andres Vicente Gomez production, Perdita Durango (1997). A Spanish film characterized by tongue-in-cheek humor, horrific brutality, and voodoo overtones, Perdita, was at once bizarre and highly typical of Screamin Jay Hawkinss persona.

In 1990 Hawkins started a band called the Fuzztones and embarked on a tour of the United States and Europe. He also signed with Demon Records and released several recordings, including Heart Attack and Vine. He also did commercials in Japan where he was immensely popular. He moved to Paris, France in the late 1990s.

On February 12, 2000, following aneurysm surgery and subsequent massive organ failure, Hawkins died at the Ambroise Pave clinic, located in the Parisian suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine. Hawkins had been married an estimated six times and fathered untold numbers of childrenas many as 57 by his own estimation. A search for his children was launched after his death.

Selected discography

At Home with Screamin Jay Hawkins, Epic, 1958.

Feast of the Mau Mau, 1967.

Screamin Jay Hawkins, Philips, 1970.

Frenzy, Edsel, 1982.

Real Life, EPM, 1989.

Voodoo Jive: The Best of Screamin Jay Hawkins, Rhino, 1990.

Black Music for White People, Bizarre, 1991.

Cow Fingers & Mosquito Pie, Epic/Legacy, 1991.

The Night & Day of Screamin Jay, 52 Rue Est, 1992.

Portrait of a Man, Demon, 1995.

Somethin Funny Goin On, Bizarre, 1995.

At Last, Last Call, 1998.

Sources

Books

Contemporary Musicians, Volume 29, Gale, 2000.

Periodicals

Associated Press, February 12, 2000.

Billboard, February 26, 2000, p. 8.

Entertainment Weekly, February 25, 2000, p. 79.

Jet, April 3, 2000, p. 18.

New Musical Express, February 26, 2000.

Reuters, March 3, 2000.

Rolling Stone, November 27, 1997, p. 30.

Variety, October 6, 1997; February 21, 2000.

Washington Post, February 15, 2000.

Online

All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com

http://hallmall.com/cgi-bin/redirect/go2.cgi?search=Screamin'JayHawkins&site=BI0GRAPHY (June 26, 2000).

Biography Resource Center, Gale,. 2001, http://www.galenet.com/servlet/BioRC.

Gloria Cooksey and Jennifer M. York

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Hawkins, Screamin’ Jay

Screamin Jay Hawkins

Singer

Rock and Roll Forever

Elaborate Gimmicks a Trademark

Film Career

Selected discography

Sources

Fifties wild man Screamin Jay Hawkins was a precursor to some of the more exotic rock and roll acts of the later part of the century. Hawkins, with his special combination of what critics unanimously called shock and schlock simultaneously entertained, bewildered, and bemused rock and roll fans with voodooevoking images of death, shrunken heads, and bonerattling sound effects. Bigger than life, Hawkins attained legendary stature, learning to play piano and read music as a toddler, and ultimately studying opera in emulation of his idols Paul Robeson and Enrico Caruso. Ultimately Hawkins found his career niche in 1950s rock and roll where with his classically trained bass-baritone singing voice, he conjured up ghoulish images on stage and on record.

Born Jalacy J. Hawkins on July 18, 1929 in Cleveland, Ohio, Hawkins was adopted from an orphanage at 18 months of age and raised by a Native American family of the Blackfoot Tribe. Hawkins, a prodigy by many standards, developed his musical literacy very young. He easily taught himself to play the piano as a toddler, and read music adeptly by age six. At age 14 he learned to play the saxophone. Although as a teenager he took up the sport of professional boxing, winning a Golden Gloves championship in 1943, he also attended the Ohio Conservatory of Music, indulging a yearning desire to study opera. He dropped out of high school in 1944 and joined the war effort, enlisting in the United States Army. During his tour of duty he was assigned to entertain the troops as a member of the special services. He was reportedly taken as a prisoner of war following a paratroop landing off the island of Saipan.

Rock and Roll Forever

Hawkins continued to box and won a middleweight championship in Alaska in 1949, although by 1950 he had abandoned his interest in the sport and elected to pursue a musical career exclusively as a rhythm and blues pianist. Around that same time he changed his name to Screamin Jay, a nickname inspired when an enthusiastic fan in West Virginia cried out, Scream, baby, scream! in reaction to the Hawkins aura. In 1952, discharged from the military, Hawkins found employment as a chauffeur for jazzman Tiny Grimes and eventually joined Grimes band, the Rockin Highlanders, as a vocalist and piano player. Grimes, who recorded for Atlantic Records at the time, provided Hawkins with the opportunity to record an original composition, Why Did You Waste My Time, and miscellaneous other songs on some of the Highlanders recordings.

The highly spirited and energetic Hawkins was constantly at odds with recording executives over his rowdy compositions such as Screamin Blues, which conflicted with the producers perceived audience preference

For The Record

Bom Jalacy J. Hawkins on July 18, 1929, in Cleveland, OH; died on February 12, 2000, in Neuilly-sur-Sein, France; married six times; fathered (approximately) 57 children. Education: Ohio Conservatory of Music.

Career: Performed with Tiny Grimes, 195254; performed with Fats Domino, 195455; signed with Okeh Records and released I Put a Spell On You, 1955; signed with Columbia Records, 1956; Philips Records, 1960s; RCA Records, 1970s; Rhino Records, 1980s; Demon Records, 1990s; performed as a solo act, 195690; bandleader, Fuzztones, 1990s; toured United States, Europe, Asia; film appearances include American Hot Wax, 1978; Mystery Train, 1990; and A Rage in Harlem, 1991.

Awards: Pioneer Award, Rhythm and Blues Foundation, 1988.

for soothing, mellow sounds. Later, Hawkins played piano with Fats Dominos band in 1954 until problems arose between Domino and Hawkins. The unlikely combination of Screamin Jay Hawkins uninhibited style and Dominos easy beat clearly did not work, and the combination failed to congeal. Domino ultimately let Hawkins go when he showed up to perform in a loud leopard skin suit.

Hawkins debuted as a solo performer at Smalls Paradise in New York Citys Harlem district, and eventually moved into performing at the clubs on Atlantic Citys boardwalk. He signed with Okeh Records in 1955 and recorded his first hit, I Put A Spell On You. The song, a lamentation of unrequited love, was written in the tone of a ballad. Hawkins, however, recorded the composition in the midst of a drunken binge that resulted in his addition of bellowing, hollering, and other bizarre sound effects. He claimed, in fact, that the extent of his inebriation was such that upon hearing the taped version of the record, he had no recollection of the recording session. Amazingly, the original recording, for all its insanity, was extremely inhibited in contrast to a subsequent version of the song recorded by Columbia Records the following year. Whereas the Okeh recording failed to sell, the much rowdier Columbia version became a hit single for Hawkins in 1956. Both versions were edited for radio play, with the bone-rattling sound effects stripped out of the recording, as many found the noises offensive and reminiscent of cannibalistic culture.

Elaborate Gimmicks a Trademark

It was the popular New York City disc jockey, Alan Freed, inspired by the audio antics of I Put A Spell On You, who came up with the elaborate gimmicks that came to be associated with Hawkins trademark performance style. Freed paid Hawkins generously to make his stage entrance in a coffin and to escalate the horror images throughout the performance. Hawkins act evolved into a zany freak show. He was carried on stage in a blazing coffin decorated with zebra skin, often dressed as a vampire. Other assorted props and paraphernalia included his cigarette smoking skull-on-a-stick, affectionately dubbed Henry, with flames rising from his head. Electrically ignited explosions punctuated the act, and Hawkins suffered severe burns on more than one occasion during the spectacular performances.

Hawkins carried his image to extremes, scrawling lipstick advertisements in the ladies rooms along Atlantic Citys Boardwalk. At times he appeared with a bone through his nose, dressed in loincloth and carrying a spear and a shield, or wearing a turban. Such antics served to increase his popularity, but led to criticism from conservative factions. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) voiced displeasure, concerned that the trashy cannibalistic illusions might become associated with the African American population. On occasion Hawkins concerts were picketed not only by mothers, complaining of the poor taste, but even by the National Coffin Association, insisting that Hawkins poked fun at the dead. Concert-goers and record-buying audiences loved the special effects regardless, and even in the absence of bone-rattling sound effects, which were stripped entirely from the United States release of I Put A Spell On You, the recording sold over one million copies.

In the wake of such controversy, Hawkins admitted that the performances, specifically the entrance by coffin, gave him chills. Despite his compensation of $2,000 for a performance, he found himself unable to proceed with his act without the assistance of alcohol and drugs. Hawkins as result developed a substance dependency over time.

The novelty of the voodoo-inspired performances peaked in the 1950s, and by the early 1960s, the popularity of Hawkins act waned. He continued to perform, touring largely in Europe where he maintained a following among avant-garde crowds, especially in England. He performed frequently in Asia and Hawaii and toured military bases entertaining the United States troops. Around that time Hawkins moved to Hawaii. Among his hit records during the 1960s were I Hear Voices and Feast of the Mau Mau, released in 1967. Hawkins and his scary, screaming style earned a reputation as fun horror.

His tours in Europe, Hawaii, and New York City continued into the 1970s, and in 1974 Hawkins successfully conquered his alcohol and drug dependency. His spell song meanwhile experienced a revival, and was recorded by several jazz and rock stars, resulting in a substantial royalties income for Hawkins. Hawkins collaborated informally with the Rolling Stones and in 1980 performed as the opening act for the Rolling Stones at a major concert in Madison Square Garden. Also during the 1980s Hawkins worked at the Palomino Club in the San Fernando Valley where he earned a ghoulish reputation among his friends because he kept his coffin prop in his kitchen, next to the refrigerator, as a makeshift storage cabinet.

Film Career

In 1978 Hawkins appeared as himself in the feature film American Hot Wax, a docu-drama about the disc jockey Freed. Later, in 1984, Hawkins spell recording was incorporated into the soundtrack of the cult film Stranger Than Paradise by Jim Jarmusch, and once again spell experienced a resurgence of popularity. In 1990 Hawkins appeared as an eerie and eccentric hotel manager in Jarmuschs Mystery Train, and the 1991 film Rage in Harlem included a scene in which Hawkins sang Spell. Hawkins also played the character of Reggie in the Andres Vicente Gomez production, Perdita Durango, in 1997. Perdita, a Spanish film characterized by tongue-in-cheek humor, horrific brutality, and voodoo overtones was at once bizarre and highly typical of the persona that was Screamin Jay Hawkins.

In 1990 Hawkins organized and starred in a band called the Fuzztones, which toured the United States and Europe. Also during the 1990s he signed with Demon Records and released some miscellaneous recordings, including Heart Attack and Vine. He did commercials in Japan where his popularity was immense, and in the late 1990s he moved to Paris, France.

Hawkins died at the Ambroise Pave clinic in the Parisian suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine following aneurysm surgery and subsequent massive organ failure on February 12, 2000. It was his wish that his body be cremated because he had been in too many damn coffins already. Additionally he left instructions for his ashes to be scattered over the ocean. Hawkins, who was married an estimated six times, fathered untold numbers of children, as many as 57 by his own estimation. A search for his dozens of children was held after his death in an effort to provide closure.

Among the many who eulogized Hawkins with awe, Chris Morris of Billboard recalled the singers career of distinctive musical dementia. Critics and observers, in retrospectives of rock and roll, credited Hawkins for his unique style that predated later artists with gothic overtones including Kiss, Marilyn Manson, Alice Cooper, and Englands Black Sabbath.

Selected discography

At Home with ScreaminJay Hawkins, Epic, 1958.

Feast of the Mau Mau, 1967.

ScreaminJay Hawkins, Philips, 1970.

Frenzy, Edsel, 1982.

Real Life, EPM, 1989.

Voodoo Jive: The Best of Screamin Jay Hawkins, Rhino, 1990.

Black Music for White People, Bizarre, 1991.

Cow Fingers & Mosquito Pie, Epic/Legacy, 1991.

The Night & Day of Screamin Jay,52 Rue Est. 1992.

Portrait of a Man, Demon, 1995.

Somethin Funny Goin On, Bizarre, 1995.

At Last, Last Call, 1998.

Sources

Books

Contemporary Musicians, volume 8, Gale Research, Inc., 1993.

Periodicals

Associated Press, February 12, 2000.

Billboard, February 26, 2000, p. 8.

Entertainment Weekly, February 25, 2000, p. 79.

Jet, April 3, 2000, p. 18.

New Musical Express, February 26, 2000.

Reuters, March 3, 2000.

Rolling Stone, November 27, 1997, p. 30.

Variety, October 6, 1997; February 21, 2000.

Washington Post, February 15, 2000.

Online

Screamin Jay Hawkins, All Music Guide, http://hallmall.com/cgi-bin/redirect/go2.cgi?search=ScreaminJayHawkins&site=BIOGRAPHY (June 26, 2000).

Gloria Cooksey

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