Awesome music from the archives. This week, Ted Hawkins
Nobody ever sang like Ted Hawkins. The amazing thing about the human voice is its endless versatility. It’s a kind of sonic fingerprint. Great singers are identifiable by the uniqueness of their vocal cords. There are so many factors involved in summoning sound from your lungs. Having a great voice is only part of it. Where you’re singing from counts for a whole lot too.
Ted Hawkins was born into a life of poverty in Mississippi. Aged 12 he was drifting, hustling and stealing. By the time he was 19 he had been in prison three times. On his third stint inside he found redemption in the shape of a guitar. Upon release he heard the voice of Sam Cooke and his soul awakened. He never looked back.
He kept on the move, never knowing where to next. The place he sings from is unknown to us. We’ve never been there. Only he has. Somewhere out beyond where logic keeps a view.
He gives everything he’s got when he’s singing. It feels truthful and heartfelt. He brings a world of knowledge to the table. He was a restless traveller, a rolling stone, a troubled soul. His is a mysterious dark voice, hard to pin down. It carries much weight and authority. The world of song is a safe hiding place for a man on the run. There’s no arguing with it. It’s rough and raw but diamond sharp too and cool at the deep end.
He attributed the rasp in his voice to years of singing in the sand and spray on the boardwalk. He liked the freedom to move within his domain. He had spent too long in the clink to have much time for playing within walls.
Many admirers tried to get him to record. One of them, Bruce Bomberg, succeeded in getting him into a studio in the early 1970s. The recordings remained unreleased until 1982. It’s called Watch Your Step and it’s made of gold.