On May 29th, Ronnie Hawkins, famed Canadian musician, died at the age of 87 to the sadness of many fans across the country. Hawkins was born in Huntsville, Arkansas, on January 10, 1935, later making a life for himself north of the border.
Known affectionately over the years as “Mr. Dynamo,” “Sir Ronnie,” “Rompin’ Ronnie,” and “The Hawk,” you may know Ronnie Hawkins from his songs on the radio, but his life here in Mississauga was equally as spectacular.
Hawkins’ love of music started in high school. He formed the first version of his band, “The Hawks”, while studying at the University of Arkansas in the 1950s. In 1958 Hawkins came to Hamilton, Ontario to play at a club called “The Grange”. He never left. Adopting Canada as his home, Hawkins became a permanent resident in 1964.
Hawkins was known for inspiring outstanding Canadian talent over his musical career. The membership of his band, “The Hawks”, kept changing as the talent flowed in and out, but the name stayed the same. One edition of “The Hawks” moved on to become Bob Dylan’s backup band and later achieved superstardom as “The Band”. Another incarnation of “The Hawks” later became Janis Joplin’s “Full Tilt Boogie Band”, and another “Robbie Lane and the Disciples”. Hawkins has befriended many of the music industry’s greats.
At the height of his fame, Ronnie bought the “Braeburn” property at 1959 Folkway Drive, Mississauga in 1967 from William McKee. Whilst living in Mississauga, Ronnie Hawkins visited with prominent members of the community, such as ornithologist Roy Ivor at the “Windinglane Bird Sanctuary” in 1970. Hawkins’ property, far off the beaten track, was also a haven for many of the music world’s greatest talents.
During John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s lengthy “peace tour” in late 1969, they sought a place to recharge away from prying eyes and busy public engagements. Hawkins invited John Lennon and Yoko Ono to his farm to plan a peace festival during the couple’s peace crusade. The invitation was well-received, and the couple stayed with Hawkins on his 20-acre property along Mississauga Road, which proved a perfect place for some fun and relaxation. Hawkins accompanied them on the train to Ottawa for their famous visit with Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau. The trio returned to Hawkins’ Braeburn property afterwards, where several interviews were conducted, and several pictures show John and Yoko relaxing and enjoying the snow. They stayed until December 22 before returning to England.
A later interview with Ronnie Hawkins about the visit gave rise to the suggestion that the iconic song “Imagine” was written (or at least worked on) by Lennon whilst in Mississauga. Hawkins later toured the world at Lennon’s request as a peace emissary for Lennon’s “Love Not War” message. Other guests at Braeburn over time included Kris Kristofferson, Rita Coolidge and Joni Mitchell, among others. He moved on from his Braeburn property in Mississauga in 1976 but remained in Canada his whole life.
Aside from his many notable connections, Rompin’ Ronnie was a dynamo in the Canadian music scene in his own right, even appearing on television and film. Hawkins won a Juno for Best Country Male Vocalist in 1984 for his hit, “Making It Again”. In 1996, the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences honored him with the Walt Grealis Special Achievement award for his contribution to developing Canada’s music industry.
Ronnie Hawkins released his 27th album “Still Cruisin’” in Canada in 2002. In November 2007, Ronnie was honored with the Special Achievement Award at the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers (SOCAN) Awards. In 2021, Ronnie was inducted into Mississauga’s Legends Row. His death is felt here in Mississauga, the city he loved and once called home.
Written By: Justine Lyn with assistance from Paula Wubbenhorst & www.ronniehawkins.com
You can also find this article in Modern Mississauga: https://www.modernmississauga.com/main/2022/6/1/mississauga-mourns-rompin-ronnie-hawkins