TORONTO, ONT – Ronnie Hawkins, a reckless Arkansas rockabilly star who has become a patron of the Canadian music scene after moving north and hiring a handful of local musicians later known as The Band, has died.
His wife Wanda confirmed to The Canadian Press that Hawkins died Sunday morning from an illness. He was 87 years old.
“He was calm and looked as handsome as ever,” he said over the phone.
Born just two days after Elvis Presley, Huntsville’s native friends called “The Hawk” (also known as “The King of Rockabilly” and “Mr. Dynamo”) were a hellish breeder with a large jaw and a stocky complexion.
He had small hits in the 1950s with “Mary Lou” and “Odessa” and ran a club in Fayetteville, Arkansas, where rock stars as old as Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Conway Twitty were.
“Hawkins is the only man I’ve heard who can make an attractive song like ‘My Gal is Red Hot’ sound sordid,” wrote Greil Marcus in his acclaimed book on American music and culture, “Mystery Train,” adding that “The Hawk “was accused of” knowing more roads, back and forth rooms than any man from Newark to Mexicali. “
Hawkins did not have the gifts of Presley or Perkins, but he did have ambition and an eye for talent.
He first performed in Canada in the late 1950s and realized that he would stand out much more in a country where rock itself still barely existed. Canadian musicians often moved to the United States to advance their careers, but Hawkins was the rare American who attempted the reverse.
With Arkansan drummer and partner Levon Helm, Hawkins set up a Canadian support group that included guitarist and songwriter Robbie Robertson, keyboardists Garth Hudson and Richard Manuel, and bassist Rick Danko. They became the Hawks, educated at Hawkins Rock School.
“When the music got a little too much for Ronnie’s ear,” Robertson told Rolling Stone in 1978, “or I didn’t know when to sing, we were told that no one but Thelonious Monk could understand what we were playing. with him it was that he made us rehearse and practice a lot. We would often play until 1 in the morning and then rehearse until 4 “.
Robertson and his friends supported Hawkins between 1961 and 1963, performing shrill shows across Canada and recording a version of Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love”, which became one of Hawkins’ iconic songs.
But Hawkins wasn’t selling many records and the Hawks outperformed their leader. They became associated with Bob Dylan in the mid-1960s, and by the end of the decade, they were superstars in their own right to be renamed Band.
Hawkins, meanwhile, settled in Peterborough, Ontario, and had a handful of 40 singles there, including “Bluebirds in the Mountain” and “Down in the Alley.”
It is true that he did not keep up with the latest sounds – he was horrified the first time he heard the Canadian Neil Young – but in the late 60’s he befriended John Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono. They stayed with Hawkins and his wife, Wanda, and three children while visiting Canada.
“At that particular time, I thought I was doing them a favor,” he later told the National Post. “I thought the Beatles were an English band that was lucky. I didn’t know much about their music. I thought Yoko’s was (silly). To this day, I’ve never heard a Beatles album. For $ 10 billion, I couldn’t quoting a song on ‘Abbey Road’. I’ve never picked a Beatles album in my life and heard it. Never. But John was so powerful. I liked him. He wasn’t one of those hotshots, you know. “
Hawkins also kept in touch with the band and was among the guests in 1976 for the star-studded concert that was the basis for Martin Scorsese’s documentary “The Last Waltz.”
For a few moments he was back in command, smiling and flaunting himself under his Stetson hat, shouting “big, big” at his former subordinates as they tore “Who Do You Love.”
In addition to “The Last Waltz,” Hawkins also appeared in Dylan’s “Renaldo and Clara,” in the big-budget fiasco “Heaven’s Gate” and “Hello Mary Lou.” A 2007 Hawkins documentary, “Alive and Kickin,” was narrated by Dan Aykroyd and featured a cameo by another famous Arkansas man, Bill Clinton.
Hawkins’ albums included “Ronnie Hawkins”, “The Hawk” and “Can’t Stop Rockin”, a 2001 release highlighted by Helm and Robertson’s appearance on the same song, “Blue Moon in My Sign”. Helm and Robertson no longer spoke, as they fought after “The Last Waltz,” and recorded their contributions in separate studios.
Over time, Hawkins has mentored numerous young Canadian musicians who have developed successful careers, including guitarist Pat Travers and future Janis Joplin guitarist John Till.
He received several honorary awards from his country of adoption and in 2013 was named a member of the Order of Canada for “his contributions to the development of the music industry in Canada, as a rock and roll musician and for his support of charitable causes.”
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Rocker Ronnie Hawkins, a Canadian rock skipper, dies at the age of 87
Source link Rocker Ronnie Hawkins, a Canadian rock skipper, dies at the age of 87