Book Review: Rock & Roll Books
Screamin' Jay Hawkins' All-Time Greatest Hits: A Novel
Reviewed by Tim Stegall, Fri., Dec. 9, 2016
Rock & roll pioneer Screamin' Jay Hawkins had only one hit, the voodoo blues funeral march "I Put a Spell on You." Springing from a coffin with a bone in his nose and shakin' a human skull on a walking staff named Henry at his audience, the Cleveland-born singer (1929-2000) was the genre's first shock rocker. Scaring the snot out of many teenage white girls at Brooklyn's Paramount Theatre in 1956, he also had a penchant for self-mythology: Raised by Indians, lying about his age to fight in World War II, father of 75 bastard children, dropped as star of Jailhouse Rock after the studio decided he was too black and weird. Rolling Stone contributor Mark Binelli is a comic genius for channeling those latter attributes. This Novel scans some of the most hilarious rock & roll fiction ever, especially the description of the aforementioned film had Hawkins played Vince Everett, and schooling Elvis Presley in the occult. Gracefully, the book does not condescend, telling these leg-pullers with wit and warmth.
Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ All-Time Greatest Hits: a novelby Mark Binelli
Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt & Company, 224 pp., $26