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Screamin’ Jay Hawkins was a blues/soul singer known for his over-the-top theatricality and the hit “I Put a Spell on You.”
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His last studio recording, At Last, was released in 1998. That same year, he won the Pioneer Award from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation. Besides music, Hawkins dabbled in acting, appearing director Jim Jarmusch’s Mystery Train (1989) and Perdita Durango (1997). In the late 1990s, he moved to France.
Hawkins died after undergoing emergency surgery for an aneurysm on February 12, 2000, in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France, near Paris. Married six times,
it is believed that he fathered at least 57 children.
On stage and in song, many others have followed in his over-the-top musical footsteps. His ghoulish show inspired other such horror-infused acts as Alice Cooper and KISS. And his legendary song, “I Put a Spell on You” has been covered by many performers, including Nina Simone and Creedence Clearwater Revival.
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When musicians land big fame, there typically comes a moment of reinvention in which the "rock star" identity is born. This new persona often requires a new name, a way to differentiate between the private and public versions of themselves. Musical monikers take different forms, from the simple, last-name changes aimed at boosting celebrity appeal—like Steven Tyler—to the glamorized version of a childhood nickname—like Jay-Z. Musicians' nicknames and aliases tend to take on an identity all their own over time, often becoming as full of personality as the artists they represent.
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