Words by Bella Spencer
Art by Ana Ovilo
B.B. King, Aretha Franklin, Christina Aguilera. All household names that have monopolised on the genius single of an under appreciated man. Roy Hawkins- the unsung hero who wrote and released ‘The Thrill is Gone’ in 1951. However, ask anyone in 2016 who is to thank for that wondrous song and you can almost guarantee they won’t say Hawkins. In several cruel twists of fate the song’s lyrics ‘You know you done me wrong, baby. And you’ll be sorry someday’ became a very accurate reflection of Hawkins’ life and legacy.
Hawkins was a blues musician, who scraped by working the club circuit while releasing a string of unsuccessful singles, until he was discovered tinkling the ivories in a piano bar in Oakland, San Francisco in 1948 by the record producer Bob Geddins. The next year he was signed to Modern Records- the label that released music by Etta James, Little John and Tina Turner- but, unlike those big-shots, he had only the briefest stint in the limelight.
Hakwin’s release of ‘The Thrill is Gone’ reached number six in the U.S. R&B Bill Board Charts, and his single ‘Why Do Everything Happen To Me’ soared to number two. However, just as things were getting good for the musician, he was in a car accident and became paralysed in his right arm, leaving him unable to pursue his musical fame. Bad luck doesn’t even cover it. Hawkins spent his following years working in a furniture shop. After this event, his documented trace dries up. Even the expansive world wide web fails to provide any salacious or even plain factual details about the musician.
It is speculated that he died in 1973- that’s four years after B. B. King released his cover of ‘The Thrill is Gone’. King’s version became a defining hit in his career. However, this is not a silver lining in Hawkins’ life story, oh no! The 1973 release was mis-credited and Hawkins was not listed as the writer, meaning he must have spent his last four years watching King ride the fame wagon on the back of his musical craftsmanship. Another downpour of bad fortune.
‘You know you done me wrong, baby. And you’ll be sorry someday’- the world did Hawkins wrong, and the world should be sorry. The fact he never gained the recognition deserved meant that his swinging tunes have gone unheard for all these years. His songs master a deep melancholy while simultaneously setting even the stiffest of hips swinging. His voice is wholesome and honest and is lyrics transcend the six decades that have past since they were penned. So I propose you open your heart and your ears to Roy Hawkins. Your thrills will be far from gone.
The Thrill is Gone- Roy Hawkins
Wine Drinkin’ Woman- Roy Hawkins
I Walk Alone- Roy Hawkins