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Screamin' Jay Hawkins

Jalacy Hawkins, best known as Screamin' Jay Hawkins (July 18, 1929February 12, 2000) was an African-American singer. Famed chiefly for his powerful, operatic vocal delivery and wildly theatrical performances of songs such as "I Put a Spell on You" and "Constipation Blues," Hawkins sometimes used macabre props onstage, making him perhaps the first shock rocker.

Early career

Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Hawkins originally set out to become an opera singer, and has regularly cited Paul Robeson as his idol. When his initial ambitions failed, he began his career as a conventional blues singer and pianist.

He served in the U.S. Army in the Pacific Ocean during World War II, primarily as an entertainer, although he claimed to have been a POW. Hawkins was an avid and formidable boxer: in 1949, he was the middleweight boxing champion of Alaska.

In 1951, he joined guitarist Tiny Grimes for a while, and recorded a few songs with him. When Hawkins became a solo performer, he often performed in a very stylish wardrobe, featuring leopard skins, red leather and wild hats.

"I Put a Spell on You"

His most successful recording, "I Put a Spell on You" (1956), was selected as one of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.

Later career

Hawkins had several further hits, including "Constipation Blues", "Orange Colored Sky", and "Feast of the Mau Mau". Nothing he released, however, had the monumental success of "I Put a Spell on You".

He continued to tour and record through the 1960s and 1970s, particularly in Europe, where he was very popular. He appeared in performance (as himself) in the Alan Freed bio-pic "American Hot Wax" in 1978. Subsequently, the filmmaker Jim Jarmusch featured "I Put a Spell on You" on the soundtrack – and deep in the plot – of his film Stranger Than Paradise (1983) and then Hawkins himself as a hotel night clerk in his Mystery Train. ad roles in Álex de la Iglesia's Perdita Durango and Bill Duke's adaptation of Chester Himes' A Rage In Harlem.

His 1957 single "Frenzy" (found on the early 1980s compilation of the same name) was included in the compilation CD, "Songs in the Key of X: Music From And Inspired By The X-Files", in 1996. This song was featured in the show's season 2 episode "Humbug". It was also covered by the band Bratmobile

In July 1991, Hawkins released his album Black Music for White People. The record features covers of two Tom Waits compositions; "Heart Attack and Vine" (which, later that year, was used in a European Levi's advertisement without Waits' permission, resulting in a lawsuit), and "Ice Cream Man" (which, contrary to popular belief, is a Waits original, and not a cover of the John Brim classic. Incidentally, Hawkins also covered the Waits tune "Whistlin' Past the Graveyard" for his album Somethin' Funny Goin' On.)

Hawkins also toured with The Clash and Nick Cave during this period, and not only became a fixture of blues festivals, but appeared at many film festivals as well.

His performance style earned him a loyal following — the use of a skull, a moving arm and, in his early days, a coffin —added to his charisma.

Hawkins died on February 12, 2000 after surgery to treat an aneurysm. He left behind many children by many women; about 55 were known (or suspected) upon his death, and upon investigation, that number "soon became perhaps 75 offspring", according to this website Sadly, news of Hawkins' death was largely overshadowed by the deaths of Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz, Dallas Cowboys football coach Tom Landry, and pop singer Oliver on that same day.


Selected singles

  • 1956 I Put a Spell On You/Little Demon [OKeh 7072]
  • 1957 You Made Me Love You/Darling, Please Forgive Me [OKeh 7084]
  • 1957 Frenzy/Person to Person [OKeh 7087]
  • 1958 Alligator Wine/There's Something Wrong With You [OKeh 7101]
  • 1958 Armpit #6/The Past [Red Top 126]
  • 1962 I Hear Voices/Just Don't Care [Enrica 1010]
  • 1962 Ashes/Nitty Gritty - w/ Shoutin' Pat (Newborn) [Chancellor 1117]
  • 1966 Poor Folks / Your Kind of Love [Providence 411]
  • 1970 Do You Really Love Me/Constipation Blues [Philips 40645]
  • 1973 Monkberry Moon Delight/Sweet Ginny [Queen Bee 1313]


  • 1958 At Home with Screamin' Jay Hawkins (Okeh/Epic) - other editions entitled Screamin' Jay Hawkins and I Put a Spell on You
  • 1965 The Night and Day of Screamin' Jay Hawkins (Planet) - also entitled In the Night and Day of Screamin' Jay Hawkins
  • 1969 What That Is! (Philips)
  • 1970 Because Is in Your Mind (Armpitrubber) (Philips)
  • 1972 Portrait of a Man and His Woman (Hotline) - also entitled I Put a Spell on You and Blues Shouter
  • 1977 I Put a Spell on You (Versatile--recordings from 1966-76)
  • 1983 Real Life (Zeta)
  • 1984 Screamin' Jay Hawkins and The Fuzztones Live (Midnight Records) - live
  • 1988 At Home with Jay in The Wee Wee Hours (Midnight Records) - live
  • 1988 Live & Crazy (Blue Phoenix) - live
  • 1990 The Art of Screamin' Jay Hawkins (Spivey)
  • 1991 Black Music For White People (Bizarre/Straight Records/Planet Records)
  • 1991 I Shake My Stick at You (Aim)
  • 1993 Stone Crazy (Bizarre/Straight/Planet)
  • 1994 Somethin' Funny Goin' On (Bizarre/Straight/Planet)
  • 1993 Rated X (Sting S) - live
  • 1998 At Last (Last Call)
  • 1999 Live at the Olympia, Paris (Last Call) - live with one studio new song

Multi-artist samplers and budget compilations

  • 1962 Screamin' Jay Hawkins and Lillian Briggs (Coronet)
  • 1963 A Night at Forbidden City (Sounds of Hawaii)
  • 1988 Screamin' Jay Hawkins- I Put A Spell On You (Elvira Presents: Haunted Hits LP)
  • 1990 Screamin' Jay Hawkins- I Put A Spell On You (Elvira Presents: Haunted Hits CD Re-Release)
  • 1994 Screamin' Jay Hawkins- Little Demon (Elvira Presents: Monster Hits CD)
  • 1996 Screamin' Jay Hawkins - Frenzy (Songs in the Key of X - The X Files)


Documentary on Screamin' Jay Hawkins

  • Screamin' Jay Hawkins: I Put a Spell On Me (Nicholas Triandafyllidis, 2001)

As an actor

  • American Hot Wax (As himself, 1978)
  • Mystery Train (Jim Jarmusch, 1989)
  • Perdita Durango, also known as Dance with the Devil (Álex de la Iglesia, 1997)
  • Peut-etre (As club singer, Cedric Klapish 1999)

External links

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