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.
Maher Zain born 16 July 1981. A singer/songwriter who’s music can be described as inspirational pop and many classify as R&B. Born in Tripoli, Lebanon his family emigrated to Sweden when he was 8 years old. His music has a strong muslim influence but don’t let that throw you off. He sings mostly in English but also mixes in Arabic, French, Turkish, Malay and Indonesian. He is also known to release different versions of the songs in each language. He releases his recordings on the Awakening Music label. His videos are powerful connections between lyric, sound and image. He finds commonality in his faith where so many try to find difference and separation. I find that many of they lyrics could be appreciated by Christian, Jews, Buddhists. If his videos sometimes seem political it is simply because he takes an event as the core topic of the story/message he is trying to spread. It is not a politics of separation but, instead, a politics of unity, exploring commonality in the human experience. Songs of social justice and conflict. Here are several videos. I hope you enjoy.
His newest video in remembrance of the Bosnia Genocide that began 11th July 1995.
Nearly every year he releases a different video celebrating the Muslim holiday of Ramadan. Here is his video for Ramadan 2020. ANTASALM (You[God] Are Peace) – an encouragement in a year of great difficulty.
A song addressing Racism in this summer of racial unrest.
A song dedicated to mothers.
Love Will Prevail – An emotional take from 2013 of the tragedy that is, continues to be, Syria. As we confront ongoing violence around the world – let’s look to our own communities – will we let love prevail?
Another Ramadan video (this one from 2013) – exploring spiritual longing, community and celebration.
Finally. A message that I think is more important in these times of unrest, outrage and deep offense. I think there is a time for everything. We need to have conversations not just telling but also listening. We need to change the things we have the power to change and let of the things we cannot change. There are great harmonies in the song and it makes me think how letting go can promote harmony.