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U.S. R&B Musician Screamin' Jay Hawkins Dies at 70

PARIS--U.S. rhythm and blues musician Screamin' Jay Hawkins, famous for performing his trademark voodoo-inspired blues lying in a coffin, has died in Paris aged 70, local media said Saturday.

Hawkins, who scored his biggest hit in the 1950s with his hollering rendition of "I Put A Spell On You," died in hospital after suffering a hemorrhage following an operation on an intestinal obstruction.

He sang and played the piano and tenor sax, and cultivated a reputation for outrageousness with stage outfits of gold and leopardskin and props including a smoking skull called Henry.

He was born Jalacy Hawkins on July 18, 1929, in Cleveland, Ohio. According to published accounts, he spent the first 18 months of his life in an orphanage before being adopted by a tribe of Blackfoot Indians.

"I came into this world black, naked and ugly. And no matter how much I accumulate here, it's a short journey. I will go out of this world black, naked and ugly. So I enjoy life," he told one interviewer.

An early musical talent, Hawkins joined the army aged 14 and won several middleweight boxing titles before joining the army's entertainment unit.

He got his start in show business in the early 1950s playing with jazz and R&B musician Tiny Grimes and was said to have played briefly with Fats Domino, before getting fired for trying to upstage the singer onstage.

Legend has it that Hawkins earned his own nickname from an obese lady he met in a nightclub, who was downing scotch and exhorted him to "Scream, baby, scream!."

Hawkins went on to cult fame with hits like "Constipation Blues" and in later life found a second career as a movie actor after director Jim Jarmusch hired him to star in "Mystery Train" in 1989.

He never realized his lifelong ambition of singing an opera. The globe-trotting musician was living in a Paris suburb at the time of his death.


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