Born on July 18, 1929, Jalacy Hawkins aka Screamin' Jay Hawkins arrived in Cleveland Ohio. He was a piano genius as well as a prize-winner boxer. He performed with Tiny Grimes and Fats Domino and you will remember his hit in 1956 screaming voice on I Put a Spell on You. He had wild stage antics with rising out of coffins and wearing bones; rock n roll's first crazy person.
Hawkins took up boxing in his teens and won a Golden Gove championship in 1943. He loved music and was inspired by Enrico Caruso to study opera. He left school to join the Army in WWII. He loved to entertain the troops and continued to box after the war.
In 1956 Hawkins drank heavily during a recording session and the result was a voodoo-sounding single filled with energetic vocals and personal sound effects. I Put a Spell on You was his first major song. Hawkins heightened his stage facade to a more ghoulish image. He used disturbing props including a skull on a stick and a coffin. He often appeared sporting a turban or a bone through his nose or a waistcloth and a spear and shield. This was fun for the audience but caused controversy in the National Association for Colored People.
His later hits included Hong Kong and Alligator Wine and they were no less boisterous. and then Hawkins moved to Hawaii. He returned to recording in the 1960s through the 1990s. His last studio recording At Last was released in 1998. He won the Pioneer Award from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation that same year.
Hawkins appeared in Mystery Train in 1989 and Perdita Durango in 1997. He moved to France in the late 1990s and stopped performing. He died after undergoing emergency surgery for an aneurysm on February 12, 2000. Hawkins was the inspiration for Alice Cooper and KISS and their "interesting" and horror infused acts. Hawkins is reported to have been married at least six times and he might be the father of at least 57 children.
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