July 1, 2022

Canadian rocker Ronnie Hawkins dies at the age of 87

Canadian rock icon Ronnie Hawkins died at the age of 87 according to his wife Wanda, who confirmed the death to the Canadian Press. 

According to a report by The Washington Times, the music legend’s wife said that “He went peacefully and he looked as handsome as ever.”

Hawkins was described by the Times as “a brash rockabilly star from Arkansas who became a patron of the Canadian music scene after moving north and recruiting a handful of local musicians later known as the Band.”

The rock singer was born within days of Elvis Presley and was know as “The Hawk” to many of his friends. He nicknamed himself “The King of Rockabilly” and “Mr. Dynamo” during his career.

In addition to his other credits, he had some minor hits in the 1950s with “Mary Lou” and “Odessa” and was known for running a club in Fayetteville, Arkansas, where names such as Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Conway Twitty performed.

“Hawkins is the only man I ever heard who can make a nice sexy song like ‘My Gal is Red Hot’ sound sordid,” Greil Marcus wrote in his acclaimed book about music and American culture, “Mystery Train,” adding that “The Hawk” was alleged to “know more back roads, back rooms and backsides than any man from Newark to Mexicali.”

The recently passed rock connoisseur wasn’t known to have the talent of acts like Presley or Perkins but he did reportedly have an excellent eye for talent. He cobbled together a Canadian backing group that included guitarist-songwriter Robbie Robertson, keyboardists Garth Hudson and Richard Manuel and bassist Rick Danko known as the Hawks.

“When the music got a little too far out for Ronnie’s ear,” Robertson told Rolling Stone in 1978, “or he couldn’t tell when to come in singing, he would tell us that nobody but Thelonious Monk could understand what we were playing. But the big thing with him was that he made us rehearse and practice a lot. Often we would go and play until 1 a.m. and then rehearse until 4.”

Hawkins was a part of the story of numerous other acts, including being reportedly “horrified” the first time he heard Neil Young and befriending John Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono who stayed with him and his wife and their three children while visiting Canada.

“At that particular time, I thought I was doin’ them a favor,” he later told the National Post. “I thought the Beatles were an English group that got lucky. I didn’t know a lot about their music. I thought Yoko’s was (silly). To this day, I have never heard a Beatle album. For 10 billion dollars, I couldn’t name one song on ‘Abbey Road.’ I have never in my life picked up a Beatle album, and listened to it. Never. But John was so powerful. I liked him. He wasn’t one of those hotshots, you know.”

In 2013 Hawkins 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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