New Novel Retells Wild Life of Bluesman Screamin’ Jay Hawkins

Laura Weber Davis/WDET

Singer Screamin’ Jay Hawkins may have had only one major, lasting hit, “I Put a Spell On You,” but his journey through life and music was worth recounting, says Mark Binelli, Rolling Stone contributing editor and author of “Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ All Time Greatest Hits.”

If you made a list of musicians who are worthy of some sort of novelistic treatment, you’d start at the top, with James Brown or Elvis, whoever, and maybe several hundred names down you’d get to Jay,” says Binelli, “but for me I was like, that’s the reason why I want to do it.”

Hawkins presented his “creepy” kind of blues with theatricality, says Binelli. Hawkins was known to jump out of a coffin during performances, dress outrageously, and carry a staff topped with a skull named “Henry,” he says.

He, like a lot of musicians, had a penchant for self-mythologizing, for telling certain tall tales,” says Binelli.

To hear more about Screamin’ Jay, as well as Binelli’s comments on the presidential election and the attack in Nice, France, click on the audio link above.

Image credit: Laura Weber Davis/WDET

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