On May 29, 2022, Ronnie Hawkins, a showman, and rockabilly devotee, died. He was 87 years old at the time. Wanda, his wife, told the Canadian Press of his demise. In her absence, she didn’t mention that she’d been ill for a few days.
87-Year-Old Rockabilly Road Warrior Ronnie Hawkins Has Passed!!
In the late 1950s, Mr. Hawkins began his acting career in Arkansas, where he was born, before moving to Canada in the 1960s to become a popular roadhouse entertainer. Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry’s rock ‘n’ roll rhythms may be heard in his work.
Musicians he attracted and coached rather than the songs he wrote earned him more popularity. Levon Helm, Robbie Robertson, Garth Hudson, Richard Manuel, and Rick Danko, the band’s early 1960s backup musicians, helped shape the group. This band accompanied Bob Dylan on tour and has since gone on to greatness.
Huntsville, Alabama-born Ronald Cornet Hawkins was a member of the U.S. Navy during World War II. Since his family relocated to Fayetteville when he was 9, his father Jasper has operated a barbershop and his mother Flora has been teaching at the local school. A shoeshine kid named Buddy Hayes had a blues band practicing in the barbershop, and the piano player was named Little Joe.
There, he was exposed to the wild cover music of the South, including blues, jazz, country snippets, and minstrel acts. As a teenager, Mr. Ronnie Hawkins made up to $300 a day driving bootleg whiskey from Missouri to dry counties in Oklahoma in a souped-up Model A Ford.
It was in 1957 that he formed the band, registered and dropped out of university, and focused his efforts on it While serving in the military, he came upon an all-black rock ‘n’ roll band called the Black Hawks, which was a daring and welcomed the move in the segregated South at the time. Over the years, his signature has been the Camel Walk, a precursor to Michael Jackson’s Moonwalk.
Through his band’s performance and the power of song, he built a loyal and mesmerizing stage presence. Chuck Berry’s Thirty Days and Mary Lou, both reworked by him, went to number one on the US charts. Because Mr. Levy’s techniques alarmed Mr. Hawkins, he decided to buy a street in Canada instead of risking his rich career as a big-name music artist in the United States.
A rockabilly street warrior like Mr. Hawkins has evolved into something much more. They welcomed John Lennon and Yoko Ono at their property outside Toronto at some point during their global tour to promote peace through the Plastic Ono Band in 1969. A longtime admirer of Mr. Hawkins, Bob Dylan had him cast as Bob Dylan in the 1975 film Renaldo & Clara.
Martin Scorsese’s The Last Waltz, a 1978 live performance film, featured him as a band member at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco for the group’s final show on Thanksgiving.
Michael Cimino’s 1980 western Heaven’s Gate depicted Mr. Hawkins as a renowned senior statesman of Canadian racing. Investments were made wisely, and he lived on an expansive lakefront property that appeared to be a rustic square. His 1989 autobiography, “Last of the Good Ol’ Boys,” details his transition from gambling prowess to kindness and preserving his bad-boy persona.