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Spooky Bluesman – Screamin’ Jay Hawkins

Posted by on October 31, 2012

Part bluesman, part magician, part Frankenstein monster – Screamin’ Jay Hawkins stomped around the stage carrying a skull on a stick.

His weird dark robes and onstage coffin were a shock to audiences in the conservative 1950s.

This was the music and attitude that sparked rock and roll!

His most famous song “I Put A Spell on You” has so many spooky groans, howls and moans because he found himself singing it in a recording studio after a night of hard drinking.  When the strange version of the song caught on, Hawkins decided to make the monster act his signature style.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=orNpH6iyokI&t=45s]

A talented pianist, singer and songwriter, Hawkins wrote and performed many great songs. “I Put a Spell On You” would be covered by jazz diva Nina Simone.  Later tracks “Voodoo”, “Little Demon” and “Constipation Blues” became defining classics.

Songs performed by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins have influenced rock and roll for decades.

Current bands the Black Keys, the White Stripes, Jon Spencer and Nick Cave all owe Screamin’ Jay a debt for pioneering their guitar sound. Here”s Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ cover of “I Am The Cool.”

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-gWQQHHEz04]

Lesser-known are Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ Tom Waits covers. This single of “Heart Attack and Vine” is especially good.
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4xLBQIWeAjI]
Screamin’ Jay’s musical legacy was not all he left behind when he passed away from surgery in February 2000. He was the father of 57 children!
Tune in to DJ Michele Myers Friday nights at 9pm on KEXP radio, kexp.org. Music historian and producer, Michele’s made over 200 radio stories for KEXP Documentaries. She’s also written scripts, lesson plans and features for Experience Music ProjectUniversity of Washington and NPR.

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