Jalacy Hawkins, aka Screaming Jay Hawkins, was born in Cleveland Ohio, in 1929 He is known, for exactly one classic song I Put a Spell on You.This novel, looks at his life, which is filled with the epic mythmaking, Hawkins created for himself, along with his outrageous, stage show He would arrive on stage, in a coffin, with a bone clamped to his nose.This is an interesting little book, but it has a choppy narrative and it never quite connects, the way I hoped it hoped it would If this brief summary, holds any interest for you, give it a try. Mark Binelli Turns His Sharp, Forceful Prose To Fiction, In An Inventive Retelling Of The Outrageous Life Of Screamin Jay Hawkins, A Bluesman With One Hit And A String Of Inflammatory GuisesHe Came On Stage In A Coffin, Carried By Pallbearers, Drunk Enough To Climb Into His Casket Every Night Onstage He Wore A Cape, Clamped A Bone To His Nose, And Carried A Staff Topped With A Human Skull Offstage, He Insisted He D Been Raised By A Tribe Of Blackfoot Indians, That He D Joined The Army At Fourteen, That He D Defeated The Middleweight Boxing Champion Of Alaska, That He D Fathered Seventy Five Illegitimate ChildrenThe RB Wildman Screamin Jay Hawkins Only Had A Single Hit, The Classic I Put A Spell On You, And Was Often Written Off As A Clownish Novelty Act Or Worse, An Offense To His Race But His Myth Making Was Legendary In His Second Novel, Mark Binelli Embraces The Man And The Legend To Create A Hilarious, Tragic, Fantastical Portrait Of This Unlikeliest Of Protagonists Hawkins Saw His Life Story As A Wild Picaresque, And Binelli S Novel Follows Suit, Tackling The Subject In A Dazzling Collage Like StyleAt Rolling Stone, Binelli Has Profiled Some Of The Greatest Musicians Of Our Time, And This Novel Deftly Plays With The Inordinate Focus On Authenticity In So Much Music Writing About African Americans An Entire Novel Built Around A Musician As Deliberately Inauthentic As Screamin Jay Hawkins Thus Becomes A Sort Of Subversive Act, As Well As An Extremely Funny And Surprisingly Moving One This is a strange book It s a fictionalized meditation on aspects of the life of Screamin Jay Hawkins who is remembered primarily for the song I Put a Spell On You Screamin Jay was perhaps the first cross over rock and roll artist to employ truly outrageous theatrical effects being carried on stage in a coffin for example The overall effect is impressionistic and does not cover his life comprehensively It s worth reading if your a fan of the Old Weird America genre. Binelli s fact and fiction approach in examining the lives of musical figures is not new try Geoff Dyer s 1995 BUT BEAUTIFUL for an earlier, deeper, and poetic example , but he puts it to work nicely in this irreverent, breezy attempt to plumb the depths of the Jalacy Hawkins enigma I didn t know a guy with this much style wrote for ROLLING STONE well, there s Taibbi. This title is quite different from what I usually read I am a pretty eclectic sort, too It is pretty quirky and I do have a fondness for quirk So it gets 4 stars. Screamin Jay Hawkins All Time Greatest Hits A Novel is a colorful exciting biographical music novel with a flair of supernatural intrigue, authored by Mark Binelli The contributing editor of Rolling Stone and Men s Journal, Bindelli s work has been featured in the NYT and other notable publications, he has authored novels and bestselling non fiction about Detroit, Michigan where he was raised and currently resides in New York.There was a note found with the infant abandoned at the Cleveland St Jude orphanage in 1929, likely from his mother saying she had been disowned by her family, and she called her baby Jalacey Eventually adopted by a loving minority family, they provided Jalacey with swimming and piano lessons, exposure to opera he attended school at the Cleveland Institute of Music Underage, Hawkins joined the Army in 1943 and served during WWII Hawkins music career began in Atlantic City following his military service in 1951 Billing himself as a singer or piano player, quite an entertainer, he toured with many popular acts including The Fat Man Fats Domino Hawkins quickly gained confidence with the ladies his pick up line, Why don t you come upstairs The emperor needs a male heir got a drink tossed in his face, but most often the lady would change her mind Jay would later claim in interviews he had fathered 75 children outside of marriage, he had married six times before his death in 2000.The freak show event organized in 2001 in Los Angeles to promote the documentary of Jay Hawkins life and reunite his numerous offspring They ranged in ages of a child at 7 with her mother, to a 53 year old surgeon from Toronto Marvin, was the 13th male child and the 24th of Jay Hawkins kids, was aware his father had been a famous entertainer, but had secretly wished he would turn out to be Marvin Gaye or one of the Temptations The implications of so many related kin that had grown up fatherless, had to resort to listening to a music CD to hear Hawkins voice, and search in a crowd of half siblings for family resemblance was disheartening and unsettling The idea of shock rock emerging from a coffin for a grand entrance and unforgettable impression originated with disc jockey Alan Freed 1921 1965 Back with the axe little girls who promoted his popular shows to packed audiences of screaming black and white teens Binelli further described Hawkins as superstitious, claustrophobic, sweating with anxiety inside the errie coffin before slowly raising the lid, rising, and belting out his hit song I Put a Spell on You in his grand act of showmanship Despite the popularity and fascination, Hawkins act was denounced by the NAACP, Dick Clark refused to feature it on American Bandstand, nor would radio stations play Hawkins music Fans of the hit song will likely remember the remake version by Nina Simone or CCR The ties to paranormal activity were apparent with the ghost of Jimmy Gilchrist appearing to Hawkins before a performance advising him The thing about dope is it doesn t necessarily mess with your playing Hard boozers are the ones who get sloppy because they can t regulate their intake, not like junkies can Whiskey, gin, another brand of whiskey will get you drunk in different ways and your musicianship will be affected accordingly If Hawkins listened or took advice from others could be material for another biography Binelli s novel provides a fascinating and excellent place for inspiration and insight to begin research With thanks to the Seattle Public Library. This book was a brilliantly put together collection of stories about the life of Jalacy Hawkins Initially, I began thinking that it was a biography, even though the front said novel, but I realized that how Jay lived was the part that was supposed to be fiction Jay Hawkins in notorious for something called self mythologizing, where he would make up stories about himself Like how he was raised by wolves in the woods until he was 8, or how he fathered 76 children, or how he could talk to birds I soon realized that the book was referring to his stories when it talked about his hits Mark Binelli does an excellent job of painting a vivid picture of just how crazy his life really was, and I think his writing really lives up to the life that Jay Hawkins live I would recommend this book to anyone, and I thought it was truly fantastic I give it 5 5 stars. This is a rather experimental fictional biography of one of the world s biggest storytellers and most unknowable musicians, Screaming Jay Hawkins Binelli puts his journalism background to good use and the known facts of Hawkins life shine through as we move through childhood, military service, years on the road, brief stardom, jail time, and obscurity not necessarily in that order The tone is pitched just right for a biographical novel on Rock and Roll s own wild man, and the change in tone and time and rhythm match up to the music of the man I liked this even than I thought I would it s a risky genre that could have gone very wrong, but in this case went very right. Fascinating, hilarious, and quite sad all at once Parts of the narrative were about as surreal as expected, but only parts Only a few segments a bit after the middle struck me as the kind of reality bending weirdness the synopsis promised For the most part, the book reads as a standard biography of a famous person, that duly debunks a number of myths and assumptions about the man All in all, an interesting portrait of an interesting artist that tries hard to include everything, even those facts that weren t true. when the review says outrageous for once it is correct.fabulous, showmanship, shocking, and phenomenal.the drive for celebrity will never make sense to me, but it does make for entertainment.
Mark Binelli is the author of Detroit City Is the Place to Be and the novels Screamin Jay Hawkins All Time Greatest Hits and Sacco and Vanzetti Must Die as well as a contributing editor at Rolling Stone Born and raised in the Detroit area, he lives in New York City.
- 224 pages
- Screamin Jay Hawkins All-Time Greatest Hits
- Mark Binelli
- 10 March 2017 Mark Binelli