All About Jazz

Home » Musicians » Screamin Jay Hawkins

Screamin Jay Hawkins Screamin Jay Hawkins

Screamin' Jay Hawkins was a blues/soul singer known for his over- the-top theatricality and the hit “I Put a Spell on You.”

Born on July 18, 1929, in Cleveland, Ohio, “Screamin'” Jay Hawkins was a piano prodigy and boxer who worked with Fats Domino and Tiny Grimes. Hawkins had a hit in 1956 with his bombastic take on “I Put a Spell on You.” His career became known for its wild stage antics, with the singer wearing bones and rising out of coffins. After later appearances in film, he died on February 12, 2000 in France.

Early Life

Singer, songwriter and musician Screamin' Jay Hawkins was born Jalacy Hawkins on July 18, 1929, in Cleveland, Ohio. One of rock and roll's original madmen, Hawkins was as famous for his music as he was for his stage antics. He spent the first year and a half of his life in an orphanage before being adopted. His mother reportedly gave him up because she already had too many children to care for. Hawkins' interest in music emerged at an early age. He taught himself to play piano and could read music by the age of 6.

While in his teens, Hawkins took up boxing. He had some success in the ring, winning a Golden Gloves championship in 1943. Still, Hawkins maintained an interest in music with a love for opera. “Something I wanted to do but never did is sing opera,” he said. “That goes back to my respect for Paul Robeson and Mario Lanza, but when I got into the music business, opera didn't get into the charts; they were just putting rhythm and blues out.”

Read more
Screamin' Jay Hawkins was best known for his song “I Put a Spell On You, “ which he recorded on the Okeh label in 1956 and which helped win him cult status in the United States, Europe and Japan. He had originally planned the tune as a ballad, but after a night of heavy drinking he tried again—screaming, yelling and groaning— and never looked back. The snorting, some say “cannibalistic” delivery got “I Put A Spell On You” banned from radio stations across the country. Hawkins went on to use the same demented style again and again. An outrageous performer, he used bizarre stage props, often emerging out of coffins during shows

Read more

Watch

Shop for Music

Start your music shopping from All About Jazz and you'll support us in the process. Learn how.