Wednesday, October 26, 2011

T-minus 5

Today's song comes from one of the earliest shock rockers, and one of the most unique - Screamin' Jay Hawkins!  Born in Ohio in 1929, Hawkins studied classical paino as a child and initially wanted to become an opera singer, but ended up becoming known for his distinctive take on blues and R&B, as well as his outrageous stage show. 

As a result of the success of his classic song "I Put a Spell on You," disc jockey Alan Freed paid Hawkins to emerge from a coffin onstage, and thus a legend was born.  Afterwards, the coffin schtick became Hawkins' regular stage entry and he started incorporating more and more horror-inspired props, like rubber snakes and a smoking skull on a stick named Henry. 

Although he never got a lot of radio play, his legendary performances landed him gigs opening for acts as diverse as Fats Domino and The Rolling Stones.  These shows exposed him to an incredibly wide array of audiences, and led him to become a heavy influence on the stage shows of many later musicians, from Alice Cooper to The Cramps. 

"I Put a Spell on You" became his most well-known song and has been recorded by numerous artists, from Nina Simone to Creedance Clearwater Revival. Since you probably stand a good chance of hearing it at least once during October, though, today's song is a lesser known gem called "Voodoo."  It's high energy and pure Screamin' Jay - can't you just see him shaking Henry in your face as he's singing this?

Hawkins also did a bit of acting during his decades-long career, most notably in Jim Jarmusch's 1989 film Mystery Train.  He is one of the funniest parts of the film, and definitely the most stylish.  Check out one of my favorite scenes below, wherein Screamin' Jay eats a plum in a most singular way.  

P.S.  Do you think you could be one of Screamin' Jay's 70+ kids?  If so, check out this article for more information.

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