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Screamin Jay Hawkins

On 18/07/1929: Screamin' Jay Hawkins was born. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, his birth name was Jalacy Hawkins. As a child, he studied classical piano. By his twenties, he started learning electric guitar. Initially. he wanted to be an opera singer. When his initial ambitions to become an opera singer he switched to being a blues singer and pianist.
Outside of music, he was a boxer. In 1949 he was the middleweight boxing champion of Alaska.
In 1951 he joined Tiny Grimes's band.
As a solo performer, he would perform in leopard skins, red leather and wild hats.
In 1956 he released his most popular song "I Put a Spell on You". Originally the song was meant to be a ballad. However during recording the producer brought in food and got everyone drunk. The resulting performance was wilder and raw, with Hawkins screaming and grunting through the song. As a consequence, it was banned by some radio stations, but was also a huge success. After its release, the DJ Alan Freed offered Hawkin's $300 to emerge from a coffin. This led to Hawkin's changing his stage persona to be more outlandish. It included voodoo stage props, such as his smoking skull on a stick and rubber snakes.
Later in his career, he would release "Constipation Blues", "Orange Colored Sky", and "Feast of the Mau Mau". Nothing would reach the success of "I Put a Spell on You" though.
He toured and recorded throughout the sixties and seventies.
In 1983 he moved to New York. In 1984 and 1985 he collaborated with garage rockers The Fuzztones. They recorded the album "Screamin' Jay Hawkins and The Fuzztones Live".
In 1991 he released the album "Black Music for White People".
In 1992 he guested on Dread Zeppelin's disco album "It's Not Unusual". During the period he toured with The Clash and Nick Cave.
In 1993 he covered "Heart Attack and Vine", which would be his only UK hit, reaching number 42.
In 2001 Nicholas Triandafylldis made a documentary about him called "Screamin' Jay Hawkins: I Put a Spell on Me".
He died after emergency surgery for an aneurysm on the 12th February 2000 in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France.

The Music History Calendar is written by the Blues Rock artist Marshland Pete
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