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Music / Screamin' Jay Hawkins

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"Y'all know smoking is bad for you, right?"

Rhythm And Blues musician (1929-2000), noted for his macabre humor and his rather spectacular live shows that included elaborate props and elements of Standup Comedy.

"I Put a Spell on You" is probably his best-known song, and has become a stable covered by many future rock musicians.

Hawkins passed away in France on February 12, 2000, at 70 years of age, after emergency surgery from an aneurysm. Infamously, after his death, Hawkins biographer Maral Nigolian put up a (now defunct) website called Jay's Kids, in order to find his dozens of illegitimate children.

"I Put A Trope On You":

  • Careful with That Axe: How he got his nickname. It tends to be rather suggestive.
  • Drunken Master:
    • He did almost all of his live shows drunk, because they opened with him bursting out of a coffin; he was too claustrophobic to get in the coffin sober.
    • His version of "I Put a Spell on You" became the spectacle it was because he and all the other members of the band were plastered when they first recorded it.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Early singles like "Not Anymore" are straight-faced, approachable blues, sung in a higher register, that give little indication of the maniac Hawkins would eventually become.
  • Foreign Queasine: "The Feast of the Mau Mau."
  • Long-Distance Relationship: "Person to Person" warns against this.
  • Love Potion: "Alligator Wine".
  • Halloween Songs: His best known song "I Put a Spell on You" is a classic Halloween song that was later featured in the Disney movie Hocus Pocus where it was sang by three literal witches.
  • Hollywood Voodoo: Frequently featured.
  • Impossibly Tacky Clothes: The titular outfit in "Yellow Coat" is so ugly it changes the weather and attracts ugly animals.
  • Metal Scream: Definitely one of the earliest examples of this.
  • Nobody Poops: Discussed in the spoken-word opening of "Constipation Blues":
    Ladies and gentlemen, most people record songs about love, heartbreak, loneliness, being broke. Nobody's actually gone out and recorded a song about real pain.
  • Obsession Song: "I Put a Spell on You".
  • Sanity Slippage Song: "I Hear Voices" and "I Put a Spell on You".
  • Scary Black Man: A major component of his onstage "creepy Hollywood Voodoo priest" persona. He faced criticism from the NAACP for it, saying he was promoting a negative stereotype of Black people. (Which Hawkins credited as giving the song a sales boost.)
  • Shock Rock: Ur-Example, if not the Trope Maker outright. Hawkins started his shows by coming out of a coffin, he had a bone stuck in his nose, he shrieked and grunted his way through his songs like he was possessed, and he carried around a smoking skull. This level of theatricality was unheard of in the late 50s, and gave him a reputation as a great live performer. Such luminaries as Screaming Lord Sutch, Alice Cooper, Black Sabbath and Arthur Brown were clearly inspired by Hawkins, and consider how influential they are.
  • Something Blues: "Constipation Blues".
  • Toilet Humor: "Constipation Blues".
  • What Did I Do Last Night?: The song, "I Put a Spell on You" was originally supposed to be a Silly Love Song, until at some point the entire band and all the technicians got blackout drunk and recorded the song complete with Hawkins's profane shouting and growling. Hawkins had no memory of the night, but discovered his purpose after listening to the recording the next morning.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: Part of Hawkins's signature vocal style was fits of rapping in gibberish in order to represent voodoo tongues or heightened emotion.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Screamin Jay Hawkins


"I Put a Spell On You"

The Sanderson Sisters sing "I Put a Spell On You" to bewitch a crowd of people.

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