Born in Cleveland, OH July 18, 1929, Jalacy “Screamin’ Jay” Hawkins would go on to take the world by storm with his unique voice and theatrical presentation. He would leave an indelible mark on popular culture. He would go on to inspire and influence generations of musicians including Tom Waits, Alice Cooper, Marilyn Manson and many others. When I discovered Tom Waits in college (mid 1980’s) I found out that one of his major influences was Screamin’ Jay. So naturally I had to check it out. I now own many Screamin’ Jay Hawkins discs. He recorded his signature hit I PUT A SPELL ON YOU many times. And just about anyone who is anybody in the music world has covered this song. But there are so many other delights. He is funny, witty, wry, satirical. Trained on classical piano he wanted to be an opera singer and sited Paul Robeson as an inspiration and Caruso was also a big influence – but when that failed to come to fruition he blossomed in the cabaret circuit and that is where his transformation into the kitschy character performer – often performing with voodoo props, rubber snakes and cigarette smoking skull he affectionally named Henry. He has had several movie appearances.
If you’ve never heard Screamin’ Jay Hawkins before you are in for a treat. Enjoy.