Jalacy Hawkins "Screamin' Jay Hawkins" passed away in Paris France, February 12, 2000. He was 70 years old and probably best known for his song "I Put a Spell on You". Jay Hawkins was born on July 18, 1929 in Cleveland, Ohio and was abandoned by his mother when he was only 18 months old.
He was adopted by a blackfoot family and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. He was teaching himself to play the piano by age 6 and later the saxaphone. He also began boxing as a teenager and became the Golden Gloves Champion at age 14. He joined the army at age 16 fighting in World War II. Hawkins began playing piano professionally in the early 50's after mustering out of army.
Screamin Jay Hawkins escapades were many and varied. He worked briefly with Fats Domino but was fired for insisting on wearing a gold and leopardskin outfit and a turban. Hawkins was known for his outrageous live performances. He employed fireworks, wild costumes, and special effects during the 50s long before Jimi Hendrix burned his guitar on stage.
Hawkins is sometimes quoted as saying he got the nickname Screamin from a gig in West Virginia.
I went to a place called Nitro, West Virginia. There was a big, big huge fat lady at the bar. She was downing scotch and Jack Daniel's at the time and whenever she looked up at me, she shouted, "Scream, baby, scream"."I Put a Spell on You" which Hawkins recorded in 56 went on to become a worldwide success and it has since been re-recorded by many artists including Nina Simone, The Animals, Creedence Clearwater Revival and The Who. It was most recently used in the movie "Hocus Pocus" sung by Bette Midler.
Hawkins' flamboyant stage persona was never more present than when he sang "I Put a Spell On You" He would emerge from a coffin brandishing a voodoo totem often with a bone in his nose. He became famous for his aggressive singing style. Including his rather unusual rendition of his own "Constipation Blues," with appropriate sound effects.
He and his wife had settled in the Paris suburb of Levallois-Perret prior to his death. Jay Hawkins will be remembered for his macabre musical style and for his rather flamboyant kiss off attitude toward those that did not appreciate his art.