Screamin' Jay Hawkins

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About Screamin' Jay Hawkins

Long before shock rock and goth, there was Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. Legendary for the 1956 spooky classic “I Put a Spell On You,” he was the first popular artist to fuse R&B, rock ’n’ roll, and occult imagery into a theatrical show; it included coffins, Dracula capes, and voodoo-inspired props. Hawkins’ career path was as unique as his music. Born in Cleveland in 1929, he studied classical piano and strove to be a Paul Robeson-style opera singer years before launching a career in the blues. But much like theater-actor-turned-horror-icon Vincent Price, Hawkins learned that feeding the public’s insatiable appetite for darkness and camp could make him a star. And it did: From the late ’50s until his death in 2000, the singer with the ghoulish howl amassed a catalog full of creepily eccentric gems like “Frenzy” and “I Hear Voices.” He also made numerous appearances in film and television, including a role in director Jim Jarmusch’s 1989 indie classic Mystery Train. Hawkins’ influence extends across the rock-music spectrum, with the likes of Alice Cooper, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Nick Cave, The Animals, and Rob Zombie all tapping into his flamboyantly devilish sound.

Cleveland, OH, United States
July 18, 1929

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