The Musical Sketchbook Project
- Screamin' Jay Hawkins
I have been compiling a sketchbook of my favorite musical artists and then turning these sketches into short videos that tell a short story about the musical artist while also giving the viewer a small taste of the artist's music.

This first video is about Rhythm and Blues legend Screaming Jay Hawkins.
This a story of destiny and regrets. Screamin' Jay Hawkins was a great #RythmandBlues singer and songwriter. Famed chiefly for his powerful, operatic vocal delivery and wildly theatrical performances of songs such as "I Put a Spell on You", but he had so many other great songs. I always liked his covers of Tom Waits songs. His macabre voodoo swamp rock stage shows though were pioneering in influencing so many other musicians, like Alice Cooper. Unfortunately when the song was released in 1956 Screaming Jay caused quite a stir. White uptight parents thought their teens were seeing a sex crazed devil worshiper and also caught the ire of the NAACP for possibly playing up to racist stereotypes. But real fans knew better and regarded his music and performances for their fun theatrics and his amazing voice.

I know at least for me as a kid, who was also a huge monster movie fan, I thought his music and wacky Voodoo shtick was the bee's knees. I still do today.

However later in life, Screaming Jay did have some regrets about his act. Namely that he wished more people came to see his singing and not just his stage show. He felt the gimmicks of his act obscured his talents as a vocalist and balladeer.

In a 1973 interview, he bemoaned the Screamin' epithet given to him by his label Okeh records, saying "If it were up to me, I wouldn't be Screamin’ Jay Hawkins...James Brown did an awful lot of screamin’, but never got called Screamin’ James Brown...Why can't people take me as a regular singer without making a bogeyman out of me?"

Interesting how 2 minutes and 25 seconds of recorded music can define the roadmap for one's life...and possibly one's sorrows.

Music: Heart Attack and Vine, written by #TomWaits


Below are the sketches used in the video.

Screaming Jay Hawkins. All drawings done on 5.5"x8.5" toned paper sketch book.
Voodoo shtick at its finest with Screamin' Jay Hawkins.
A portrait of the pensive Scream Jay Hawkins.
Tom Waits playing his song "Heart Attack and Vine." While I felt that I didn't really capture Tom Waits in this (he looks more like Lee Marvin.) I liked the drawing and it worked in the video. Hey, that's what sketches are for: to try our imagery and techniques. So there you go.

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