Toronto — Ronnie Hawkins, a ruthless rockabilly star from Arkansas who became a patron of the Canadian music scene as he moved north and later recruited a handful of local musicians to form the band.
His wife, Wanda, confirmed to The Canadian Press that Hawkins died on Sunday morning following an illness. He was 87 years old.
“He left calmly and he looked as handsome as ever,” she said by telephone.
Born just two days after Elvis Presley, the Huntsville native dudes called “The Hawk” (he also called himself “The King of Rockabilly” and “Mr. Dynamo”) is a hell-bent with a big jaw and a stocky build. Was about to lift
In the 1950s he had minor hits with “Mary Lou” and “Odessa” and ran a club in Fayetteville, Arkansas, where acts included early rock stars such as Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Conway Twitty.
“Hawkins is the only person I’ve ever heard who can make a good sexy song like ‘My Gal Is Red Hot’,” wrote Grail Marcus in his acclaimed book about music and American culture, “Mystery Train.” Hawke” was accused of “knowing more back streets, back rooms and backsides than any man from Newark to Mexicali.”
Hawkins didn’t 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 50s and felt he would stand out far more in a country where country rock still barely exists. Canadian musicians often moved to America to further their careers, but Hawkins was the rare American who attempted the opposite.
Along with drummer and fellow Arkansas Levon Helm, Hawkins put together a Canadian support group that included guitarist-songwriter Robbie Robertson, keyboardists Garth Hudson and Richard Manuel, and bassist Rick Danko. They became Hawks educated at Hawkins School of Rock.
“When the music got a little too far for Ronnie’s ear,” Robertson told Rolling Stone in 1978, “or he couldn’t tell when to get into singing, he would tell us none but Thelonious Monk. Can understand what we were playing.. But the great thing with him was that he got us to rehearse and practice a lot. Often we used to go till 1 PM and then rehearse till 4 PM.”
Robertson and friends supported Hawkins from 1961–63, performing raucous shows around Canada and recording a howling cover of Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love”, which became one of Hawkins’ signature songs.
But Hawkins was not selling many records and the Hawks overtook their leader. They joined with Bob Dylan in the mid-60s and by the end of the decade had become superstars on their own, having changed their name to the band.
Hawkins, meanwhile, settled in Peterborough, Ontario, and had some Top 40 singles there, including “Bluebirds in the Mountain” and “Down in the Alley”.
He admitted that he didn’t keep up with the latest sounds – he was horrified to hear Canadian Neil Young at first – but in the late 1960s he befriended John Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono. He lived with Hawkins and his wife, Wanda, and three children while moving to 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 group that got lucky. I didn’t know much about their music. I thought Yoko was[silly]. To this day, I’ve never heard a Beatle album. $10 Billion I couldn’t name a song from ‘Abbey Road’. I’ve never in my life picked up a Beatle album, and never listened to it. Never. But John was so powerful. I loved him. He was one of those hotshots. There wasn’t one, you know.”
Hawkins also remained in touch with the band and was one of the guests of the 1976 All-Star, Farewell concert, which was the basis for Martin Scorsese’s documentary “The Last Waltz”.
For a few moments he was back in charge, smiling and strumming under his Stetson hat, calling his former underlings “big time, big time” as he tore through “Who Do You Love”.
In addition to “The Last Waltz,” Hawkins also appeared in Dylan’s “Renaldo and Clara,” the big-budget fiasco “Heaven’s Gate,” and “Hello Mary Lou.” A 2007 documentary about Hawkins, “Alive and Kickin’,” was narrated by Dan Aykroyd and featured a cameo from another famous Arkansas, Bill Clinton.
Hawking’s albums included “Ronnie Hawkins,” “The Hawk” and “Can’t Stop Rockin'”, notable for Helm and Robertson appearing on the same song “Blue Moon in My Sign” in 2001. Helm and Robertson were no longer speaking, dropped out after “The Last Waltz” and recorded their contributions at separate studios.
Over time, Hawkins guided many young Canadian musicians who went on to successful careers, including guitarist Pat Travers and future Janis Joplin guitarist John Till.
He has received several honorary awards from his adopting country, and in 2013 was named a member of the Order of Canada, for his contribution to the development of the music industry in Canada, as a rock and roll musician, and for his support. was. charitable cause. ,