Ronnie Hawkins


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photograph of Ronnie Hawkins

Ronnie Hawkins OC (born Ronald Hawkins on 20 January 1935; died 29 May 2022) was an American/Canadian rock and roll musician whose career spanned more than half a century. He recorded solo and, in early recordings, as Ronnie Hawkins & The Hawks. His career began in Arkansas, where he was born and raised. He found success in Ontario, Canada, and lived there for most of his life. He is remembered as very influential in the establishment and evolution of rock music in Canada.

A pioneering rock and roll musician (and cousin to fellow rockabilly pioneer Dale Hawkins) known as "Rompin' Ronnie" Hawkins or "The Hawk", he was a key player in the 1960s rock scene in Toronto and for the next 40 years, performed all over North America, recording more than twenty-five albums. His best-known hits are "Forty Days" and "Mary Lou" (about the song narrator's experiences with a gold-digging woman), both were major hits for him in 1959.

At the age of nine, his family moved to nearby Fayetteville. After graduating from high school, he studied physical education at the University of Arkansas where he formed his first band, The Hawks, touring with them throughout Arkansas, Oklahoma and Missouri. Hawkins also owned and operated the Rockwood Club in Fayetteville where some of Rock music's earliest pioneers came to play including Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison and Conway Twitty.

In 1958, he moved to Canada with the Hawks and made Peterborough, Ontario, his permanent home. Gradually the members of the Hawks, except for Levon Helm, were replaced with talented Canadians Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko, Richard Manuel and Garth Hudson. This was the line-up that was to later become The Band.

His 1984 LP, 'Making It Again', garnered him a Juno Award as Canada's best Country Male Vocalist. Playing with The Band, Hawkins helped tear down the Berlin Wall in 1989 and performed at President Bill Clinton's 1992 inaugural party. In addition to his music, he has also become an accomplished actor, hosting his own television show "Honky Tonk" in the early 1980s and appearing in such films as Heaven's Gate with his friend Kris Kristofferson and Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II.

October 4, 2002 was declared "Ronnie Hawkins Day" by the city of Toronto when Hawkins was inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame in recognition of his lifetime contribution to music and his generous support of the Schizophrenia Society of Ontario and other charitable organizations. Ronnie Hawkins was inducted into the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame at the Canadian Music Industry Awards on March 4, 2004. His pioneering contribution to the genre has also been recognized by the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.

In 2005, he was awarded an honorary degree from Laurentian University. Read more about Ronnie Hawkins on User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply.

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