Saturday, May 22, 2010

Ronnie Hawkins

Ronnie HawkinsA wild man from Arkansas lost in the jungles of Toronto, a big fish in a small pond – that was Ronnie Hawkins, who built himself a rock and roll empire that few knew about outside TO the good.

He may be just as famous for giving the world The Band as he is for his own music. For someone with his legendary status, he didn’t figure all that prominently on the radio or on the charts; he only had one top 40 hit, and a couple more on the top 100. The Toronto chart shows 12 songs, which makes sense.

This is a Quality release called Greatest Hits, 10 tracks, plus Home From The Forest from a reissued single.

Ronnie Hawkins

Ruby Baby – A hit originally for The Drifters, and done more famously by Dion, Hawkins spits out basic R & B about unrequited love. I got a girl, he sings, but she don’t love me. Does he have her or not??
Odessa – If you see Odessa, Ronnie asks of some unnamed party, tell her I’m coming home. He can’t tell her himself? And why is her name Odessa, anyway? This song has nothing to do with The Bee Gees.
Forty Days – Chuck Berry rendered this as Thirty Days, but it’s the same song. From the summer of 1959.
Clara – I’ll dedicate this one to my father. Clara is my mother. Only song I know by that name, though Gilbert O’Sullivan did Claire. Not the same.
Bo Diddley – Confusing, I know, but this isn’t Bo Diddley at all, it’s Hey Bo Diddley. Meanwhile he does the Bo man proud. From the winter of 1963. • Mojo Man – The legend of the all powerful alpha male, he can control the weather, single handedly defeat armies, do all manner of magic, and even “make you fall in love with me.” That’s what it’s all about isn’t it.
Baby Jean
The Ballad Of Caryl Chessman – Here in Canada we abolished capital punishment eons ago. There was still a bit of controversy for a while but it faded away, and it’s a, forgive the pun, dead issue. The Americans may catch up in a century or so. This song, about the character portrayed so ably by Alan Alda in the movie, and the cause célèbre he inspired, makes a better plea for the abolishment of capital punishment than all the treatises you could read. “Let his soul be judged on judgment day” indeed. From the winter of 1960
Who Do You Love – Another Bo Diddley piece, and on this one the competition is fierce: Tom Rush, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Juicy Lucy, Jesus & Mary Chain. Hawkins himself does a standout version on The Last Waltz
Mary Lou – From the fall of 1960, a story about a car stealing woman.
Home From The Forest – Gordon Lightfoot’s tale of poverty and how it brings down the noble soul of man is done honour by Hawkins, who put an otherwise overlooked song into the Canadian top 40 in the winter of 67 / 68.

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