Born and raised in Cleveland, Hawkins studied classical piano as a child and learned guitar in his twenties. His initial goal was to become an opera singer (Hawkins has cited Paul Robeson as his musical idol in interviews), but when his initial ambitions failed he began his career as a conventional blues singer and pianist. Hawkins was an avid and formidable boxer. In 1949, he was the middleweight boxing champion of Alaska. When Hawkins became a solo performer, he often performed in a stylish wardrobe of leopard skins, red leather and wild hats.
Hawkins’ most successful recording, “I Put A Spell On You” (1956), was selected as one of The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame’s 500 songs that shaped the world”
“I Put a Spell on You” is a 1956 song written and composed by Jalacy “Screamin’ Jay” Hawkins, whose own recording of it was selected as one of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.