(CelebrityAccess) – Ronnie Hawkins, the rockabilly singer known as “the Hawk,” whom some consider “the most important man in Canadian rock n’ roll,” died Sunday (May 29) after a long illness. He was 87. His wife Wanda confirmed the news of his death, saying, “He went peacefully, and he looked as handsome as ever.”
Born January 10, 1935 – two days after Elvis Presley in Arkansas, Hawkins became a star after moving north to Canada and mentoring a group of Canadian and American musicians later known as The Band. He first started performing in the late 1950s but was extremely ambitious; he moved north where “rockabilly” hadn’t been brought to the mainstream.
Along with Levon Helm, Hawkins put together a group that included Robbie Robertson (guitarist/songwriter), Garth Hudson, Richard Manuel (keyboardists), and Rick Danko (bassist). They became known as the Hawks. However, after not selling any records, The Hawks met up with a man named Bob Dylan in the mid-1960s and renamed themselves the Band.
Hawkins remained in Canada and had a couple of hits with “Bluebirds Over the Mountain” and “Down in the Alley.” Over time, Mr. Hawkins mentored numerous young Canadian musicians who went on to successful careers, including guitarist Pat Travers and future Janis Joplin guitarist John Till.
The tributes have continued to pour in among news of his death.
“Ronnie Hawkins was my first interview in 1965 in the foyer of the Le Coq d’Or club on Toronto’s Yonge Street strip,” recalls CelebrityAccess senior writer Larry LeBlanc. “And I last talked to him three months ago. In between conversations, Ronnie changed Canadian music by birthing the Band, Crowbar and employing such musicians as David Foster, Domenic Troiano, B.J. Cook, Bev d’Angelo, and David Clayton-Thomas. He hosted John Lennon, recorded with Jerry Wexler in Muscle Shoals, and appeared in “The Last Waltz.”
Rest In Peace, Ronnie Hawkins. pic.twitter.com/X32JQrw0p5
— Robbie Robertson (@r0bbier0berts0n) May 29, 2022
He received several honorary awards from his adopted country. In 2013, he was named a member of the Order of Canada for “his contributions to the development of the music industry in Canada, as a rock’n’roll musician, and for his support of charitable causes.” Hawkins is also a two-time JUNO Award winner, an inductee into the Canadian Walk of Fame and the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, he’s also remembered for his sense of humor and steady support of those in need/charities.
“There’s truly a dozen stories that I can never tell you — just the craziest sh*t you could imagine. But he should be remembered as the godfather of Canadian rock ‘n roll. I was fortunate to spend time with him. I was fortunate to be in his band. I was fortunate to stay friends with him all these years. That’s saying something when you can stay really good friends with somebody after they’ve fired you.” ~ David Foster
Hawkins is survived by his wife of 60 years, Wanda, and his children, Robin, Leah, and Ronnie Jr.