Rock and roll singer Ronnie Hawkins, who helped launch the careers of The Band and other Canadian artists, died Sunday at the age of 87. He had been battling a long-term illness.
His wife, Wanda, confirmed to The Canadian Press that he died peacefully. He was 87 years old and looked as handsome as ever.
The singer, known for his distinctive voice and stage presence, was regarded as the “the Hawk.” His most famous song, “Mary Lou,” reached the No. 26 spot on the US charts. He also performed his signature “camel walk” dance.
In 1958, he started touring in Ontario. He was well-known in Canada by the time he was featured in the CBC Telescope documentary.
He talked about his love for Canada and its people in the documentary. Although he didn’t know much about the country’s politics, he noted that he would always dig it up.
He joined the army and the National Guard when he was a young man. However, his main passion was music, and he started playing in local bars in 1953. After signing with the Roulette Records in 1959, he produced several hits, such as “Mary Lou.”
As a singer, songwriter, and guitarist, he was one of the first artists to combine the elements of blues and country soul into a unique sound known as Rockabilly. However, The Band’s five members would establish his reputation as the Hawk.
Aside from The Band, he also worked with various other artists, such as Bob Dylan and Dean Allman. He also portrayed the role of Clara in the film “Renaldo and Clara.” In 1969, John Lennon and Yoko Ono visited his farm in Toronto.
His mentorship helped The Band support Bob Dylan during his 1966 tour. He also worked with other artists, such as Rick Danko and Robbie Robertson, and they would frequently perform together as the Hawks. Danko, Robertson, Hudson, Manuel, and Helm would eventually join Dylan on his Around-the-World Tour.
The group would become one of the most critically acclaimed bands in the music industry. Its hits include “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” “Up on Cripple Creek,” and “The Weight.”
In 1994, Robbie Robertson thanked Ronnie Hawkins for helping The Band become successful, and he also referred to him as the group’s code of the road.
He was an honorary Canadian in 1982. In 1996, he was named the country male vocalist of the year at the annual ceremony known as the Junos. In 2007, he was also given a lifetime achievement award from the Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers of Canada. In 2014, he was made an honorary officer of the Order of Canada.
The End of The Hawk! Rest In Peace