Screamin’ Jay Hawkins was larger than life and louder than sin. The story of his life is a wild ride through nightclubs and bedrooms throughout the world. Who cares what the truth is when the story he tells is so much better.
In the annals of rock ‘n’ roll there have been a lot of strange characters, but there probably hasn’t been anyone as bizarre as Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, and this is his story. Known mostly for a single record, I Put A Spell On You, and emerging from a coffin to perform on stage, Screamin’ Jay was a whirlwind performer, lusty singer, prolific songwriter and a man who was total stranger to the truth.Screamin’ Jay Hawkins was larger than life as he emerged from a coffin with a skull on stick singing I Put A Spell On You. With one song, Screamin’ Jay, who studied piano and sang opera, became the embodiment of the sexually insatiable, voodoo empowered, black man feared by 1950’s America. Caught between myth and a nearly unbelievable truth, which story is better? I Put A Spell On You brings together hundreds of interviews with Screamin’ Jay, his family, and bandmates to weave a new tale of the life of this seminal rock and roll pioneer.Screamin’ Jay Hawkins released "I Put a Spell On You" in 1956. The song, that never made it to the charts when it was released, would eventually be covered several hundred times by the likes of Nina Simone, Credence Clearwater Revival, and Marilyn Manson; Jeff Beck and Joss Stone’s version even received a Grammy nomination in 2010. It was selected as one of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll and was added to Rolling Stones’ list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Hawkins’ music and outlandish onstage persona inspired generations of musicians after him. And yet, little is known of the man and little can be taken at face value. Hawkins interpreted his past with a poetic license to kill, a magical amalgam of his own making—creating disparate stories alternatively terrible or sympathetic at his will. I Put A Spell On You brings together hundreds of interviews with Hawkins, his family, bandmates, and contemporaries. For those needing a towpath of truth, footnotes abound to tether you through. Here is Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’s story—mean, heartbreaking, and magic.
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