Clearly a labor of love by a fan who adores Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Greek director Nicholas Triandafyllidis’ I Put A Spell On Me manages to transcend the sort of cinematic mash note that directors who are too in awe of their subject tend to create. This documentary is the kind of testament Hawkins deserves - a solid and well-rounded film that features insightful interviews and great live performance footage. It’s unbelievable that no one thought of telling Hawkin’s tale before 1999, the year Triandafyllidis began filming his movie.
Documenting Hawkins’ tour of Greece, Triandafyllidis manages to capture Hawkins in full force and it’s hard to fathom that only four months after this concert footage was shot Hawkins would die of a heart attack in Paris at the age of 70.
Over the years the song “I Put A Spell On You” has sold over 18 million copies. But Hawkins never received any money for the tune because of the kind of dirty dealing that we’re all too familiar with when it came to record companies and how they treated Black artists. Arguably one of the most influential and pioneering figures in rock ‘n’ roll, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins never got his due. This documentary is a small step in the right direction in bringing attention to a legend. Too bad he wasn’t around to see it.
Jim Jarmusch, Bo Diddley and Eric Burdon add their invaluable perspective to the film.
Art: Drew Friedman