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Rockabilly icon and former The Band vocalist, Ronnie Hawkins, dead at 87

Rockabilly and country icon Ronnie Hawkins has died, aged 87. Hawkins’ wife Wanda confirmed the singer’s death in an interview on May 29th, stating that he went peacefully after a long illness. “He went peacefully and he looked as handsome as ever,” she revealed to the Canadian presses.

Hawkins will be best remembered among Far Out readers for his connection to The Band, not least his rousing performance during The Last Waltz. He was born in Huntsville, Arkansas in 1935, bringing a sense of musical gravitas to the area. He inspired Levon Helm, who would go on to tour with The Hawks, an early iteration of The Band.

Hawkins relocated to Hamilton, Ontario, in an effort to tour the pub circuit, offering him the chance to fashion his voice and create a new sense of semblance and pathos. Hawkins released a rousing debut album, a self-titled disc for Roulette Records, that featured a collection of traditional standards and boisterous originals. Hawkins’s signature performance number was a rendition of Bo Diddley’s ‘Who Do You Love?’, which he recreated faithfully with The Band in 1976.

By then, The Band featured Helm on percussion, and Robbie Robertson on guitar and lyrics. Bassist Rick Danko and pianist Richard Manuel filled out the lineup. Hawkins was one of a number of guest performers who appeared on the stage with The Band. Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, Ringo Starr and Neil Young were just some of the musicians who appeared on the stage with the core group in question.

The spectacle was filmed by Martin Scorsese and doubles as a history of rock and roll, which was still in its formative stages at that point in time. Robertson was filmed discussing the group’s experiences touring across the world, understanding the triumphs and the tribulations the industry had in store for them. Robertson seems emotional, but from the closure of the era came the beginning of another exciting decade, this time as a soundtrack composer. Robertson has worked closely with Scorsese on a number of interesting projects, not least The Irishman, which featured a rousing duet with Irish singer Van Morrison.