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Ronnie Hawkins Dies at 87: Remembering the Life of the Rockabilly Legend

Dayna Remus
May 30, 2022
05:15 P.M.

Ronnie Hawkins will not only be remembered for his music. Many praise him for mentoring some of the most excellent musicians spanning over generations and bringing rock-and-roll to the once-barren land of Canada.

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After battling a long-term illness, Hawkins, the Southern rockabilly singer who helped shape and launch "The Band" and other Canadian rock artists, died on May 29, 2022. He was 87 years old.

Hawkins is survived by his wife, Wanda Hawkins. They had three children together who are now adults: Robbie, Leah, and Ronnie Jr.

Ronnie Hawkins at a Janie's Fund Fundraiser on September 12, 2016 in Toronto. | Source: Getty Images

Ronnie Hawkins at a Janie's Fund Fundraiser on September 12, 2016 in Toronto. | Source: Getty Images

REMEMBERING THE LIFE OF THE ROCKABILLY SINGER

Wanda confirmed that he had passed away, expressing: "He went peacefully, and he looked as handsome as ever."

Meant for the life of rock-and-roll, Hawkins was born only two days after Elvis Presley was born on January 10, 1935, in Hunstville, Arkansas. At nine years old, his parents moved the family to Fayetteville, North Carolina.

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His father owned a barbershop where he was first introduced to his future in music. Buddy Hayes, a boy who shone shoes at the barber, would play with a blues band. Here, he began to absorb and learn more about music.

Soon enough, the singer-songwriter was creating his own tunes, making a name for himself in the rock-and-roll music scene of the 1950s. He put out slightly popular songs with artists such as Odessa and Mary Lou.

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But, it wasn't until the late 1950s that he made a big career move that changed his whole trajectory. In what appeared to be a strange decision, he moved to Canada from the United States.

He saw that there was no native rock scene and thought he could take advantage of the gap in the market. It worked. There, he mentored and assembled what would become what some consider the greatest backing band of all time.

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He referred to them as "The Hawks," but when no sales records or money came in, they changed their name to "The Band" and chose to work with Bob Dylan instead.

While Hawkins found some of his songs in the Top 40 hits, his time as a mentor to various Canadian music artists is noteworthy.

From guitarist John Till and Pat Travers to the widely famous Janis Joplin, he lit a melodic fire in the Great White North.

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EMOTIONAL TRIBUTES TO "THE HAWK"

Many famous people and music artists came out of the woodworks to wish this rockabilly legend their final goodbyes. Freelance music publicist Eric Alper wrote on Twitter:

"Ronnie Hawkins, the single most important rock and roller in the history of Canada, has passed away at age 87. The Band, Dale Hawkins, Bob Dylan, and thousands of others wouldn't be the same without him. Music wouldn't be the same. [sic]."

Canadians from all walks of life took to Twitter to share their grief. Musician Burton Cummings sent his condolences, television personality Jeanne Beker did so too, and writer Margaret Atwood.

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Out of all these heartfelt messages, Robbie Robertson from "The Band's" Tweet, which included his official statement, stood out.

He spoke about how his late mentor would push him and his bandmates, implying that "The Band" would not exist without the late Hawkins. In a powerful part of the statement, the musician wrote: "Ronnie was the godfather. The one who made this all happen."

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