Screamin' Jay Hawkins, the father of shock-rock, has died at the age of seventy. His followers can be considered Marilyn Manson, Alice Cooper, Rob Zombi, Ozzi Osborne, etce. Even that guru of funk, George Clinton, admitted that he owes a lot to the chilling shows of Hawkins.
Hawkins was always a problematic figure, as much for record companies as for concert organizers. His typical performances started out as dialogues with a skull smoking a cigarette, with throwing cockroaches, snakes, bones, and other matter around the stage, but this all seemed to cultivate his dubious popularity among the leaders of show business. His appearance on stage, with white face paint, sash, and a spear resulted not only in the reaction of the press ("Hawkins is a shame to all blacks...") but also in Paramount Picture's ban to show that particular episode- since it would be an insult to all African Americans.
His hits, nonetheless, were many. One of the most famous songs is "I Put a Spell on You." There are 28 known versions of it, recorded by some very big names among musicians- from Ray Charles to Creadance. It is interesting to note that this song was banned from the radio for being "cannibalistic." The hit, however, continued to remain as one of the most popular for fifty years, and more and more singers have come under its spell. "Little Demon," "Alligator Wine," and "I Hear Voices" are masterpieces- ominous, energetic and provocative, they continue to live while contemporary singers perform them.
As a singer, Hawkins combined rock-n-roll with opera. Often his songs came close not only to "Tutti Frutty" or "Good Golly Miss Molly," but to Puccini's "La Bohem," one of Hawkin's favorites.
The boxer, comedian, rhythm and blues singer, actor, opera singer, mystificator and song-writer died in a suburb of Paris.
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