Screamin' Jay Hawkins

Rhythm and blues singer and musician from Cleveland

Screamin' Jay Hawkins

Today on Ecléctico you're listening to Screamin' Jay Hawkins, an R&B singer and musician originally from Cleveland, Ohio. "I Put A Spell On You" put Hawkins on the map in 1956 and keeps him in our ears to this day. However, Hawkins was a prolific musician, continuously creating and releasing music while pushing the boundaries of his dark and lascivious sides. Today's song and the album it's on do just that with a jumpin' groove. (Props to David Katznelson for putting Hawkins on our radar recently via his excellent newsletter.)

"Please Don't Leave Me" by Screamin' Jay Hawkins
1970 | Rhythm and blues singer and musician from Cleveland

Go deeper with this excerpt from and a link to a short description of the album on Forced Exposure:

Although initially pursuing opera after returning from serving in World War II, [Screamin' Jay] Hawkins eventually sharpened his focus on the darker side of R&B and jazz, using macabre stage props, absolute wildman persona and expert voice imitating the blare and squeal of saxophones. His most notable chart-topper was the boozy, raucous 1956 hit 'I Put A Spell On You,' which was banned by many radio stations for its suggestive groans and grunts. All things considered, Screamin' Jay Hawkins is considered one of the earliest pioneers of what would become shock rock.

Recorded in 1970, Hawkins' fourth album finds the artist at a point of transition. Although Jay had found commercial success and his sales surpassed one million units, he had grown somewhat weary of his shock/voodoo/bogeyman persona and wanted to be taken more seriously as a singer. Luckily for us, Jay only tones down the yelling and the crooning and the grunting and the groaning marginally. The tracks here are every bit as wild as you would hope and a bit more mature (note: a very little bit).