Screamin Jay Hawkins – Biography, Songs, Albums, & Facts

Screamin Jay Hawkins Biography

Jalacy J. “Screamin’ Jay” Hawkins was an American singer-songwriter, musician, actor, film producer, and boxer. He was well known for his powerful, operatic vocal style and extremely theatrical performances of songs like “I Put a Spell on You,” and he was an early pioneer of shock rock. For his portrayal in the 1989 indie film Mystery Train, he was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Male.

On July 18, 1929, Hawkins was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. His initial desire was to become an opera singer, but when that failed, he began his career as a traditional blues singer and pianist.

Screamin’ Jay Hawkins was the most outlandish performance in rock history. With a flaming skull dubbed Henry as his constant companion, Screamin’ Jay was an extremely theatrical figure long before it was even remotely respectable.

Hawkins’ backstory is almost as strange as his on-stage act. Hawkins was influenced by Paul Robeson’s booming baritone but was unable to break through as an opera singer. His boxing prowess was as lethal as his vocal cords, and many of his most amusing stories involve Jay beating the crap out of a musical opponent.

Hawkins got his first chance as a pianist/valet for famous jazz guitarist Tiny Grimes in 1951. The following year, he made his Gotham debut with “Why Did You Waste My Time,” backed by Grimes & His Rockin’ Highlanders (who performed in kilts and tam o’ shanters). Hawkins’ legendary 1956 rendition of “I Put a Spell on You” for Columbia’s OKeh label was preceded by singles for Timely (“Baptize Me in Wine”) and Mercury’s Wing subsidiary (1955’s otherworldly “[She Put The] Wamee [On Me],” a foreshadowing of things to come).

Hawkins originally intended the song to be a sophisticated ballad. Hawkins yelled, groaned, and gurted his way through the song with utter drunken abandon after he and his New York session aces (particularly guitarist Mickey Baker and saxist Sam “The Man” Taylor) had imbibed to the point of no return. Despite the protestations of uptight suits in power, “I Put a Spell on You” became Screamin’ Jay’s best-selling single (“Little Demon,” its rocking flip, is a minor classic itself).

Hawkins released several spectacular follow-ups in the same insane style between 1957 and 1958, including “Hong Kong,” a bizarre “Yellow Coat,” and the Jerry Leiber/Mike Stoller-penned “Alligator Wine,” but none of them were as successful as “Spell.” DJ Alan Freed persuaded Screamin’ Jay Hawkins that popping out of a coffin might be a show-stopping gimmick by offering him a $300 extra (long after Freed’s death, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins was still reaping the benefits of his crass idea).

Hawkins’ second truly inspired release came in 1969, when he signed with Philips Records (where he made two albums).

His cheesy “Constipation Blues” didn’t get much attention, but it was an important part of his legacy for a long time. In later years, Screamin’ Jay’s larger-than-life character benefited the film industry. Hawkins’ appearances in Mystery Train and A Rage in Harlem made him a recognised face to children who had never heard “I Put a Spell on You.” Hawkins died on February 12, 2000, after undergoing surgery to cure an aneurysm. He was 70 years old.


The Art of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins
Real Life
Lawdy Miss
Screamin’ the BluesSpotify
I Put a Spell on YouSpotifyApple
A Portrait of a Man and His Woman
Because Is in Your MindSpotifyApple
What That Is!SpotifyApple
The Night and Day of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins SpotifyApple
At Home with Screamin’ Jay HawkinsSpotifyApple

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Frequently Asked Questions

Screamin Jay Hawkins?

was an American singer-songwriter and musician. He was best known for his hit song, “I Put a Spell on You”, as well as his unique stage show, which often featured him dressed in a cape and headdress, and sometimes emerging from a coffin.

What Kind Of Music Is Screamin Jay Hawkins?

Screamin Jay Hawkins was an American blues, R&B, and rock and roll singer and songwriter. His unique performances, which often featured him dressed in a coffin or wearing a cape and headdress made from bones or skulls, earned him the nickname “The Screamin’ Skull”. He is best known for his 1956 hit single, “I Put a Spell on You”. Hawkins was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, and began his musical career in the early 1950s.

Screamin Jay Hawkins Genre?

Screamin’ Jay Hawkins was an American singer, songwriter, and musician who was influential in the development of rock and roll music. His unique style combined elements of R&B, blues, and gospel, and his powerful voice and stage presence made him a popular performer.

Most Searched For Screamin Jay Hawkins Songs

I Put a Spell On You SpotifyAppleYouTubeAmazon
Monkberry Moon Delight Spotify
Heart Attack and Vine – Remastered SpotifyAppleYouTube
I Am the Cool – Remastered SpotifyAppleYouTube
Little Demon SpotifyAppleYouTubeAmazon
Frenzy SpotifyAppleYouTubeAmazon
Portrait Of A Man SpotifyAppleYouTube
I Love Paris SpotifyAppleAmazon
Sweet Ginny SpotifyYouTubeAmazon
Night And Day Spotify