OAKENSTAR, Jess Hawk
Jess Hawk Oakenstar noted guitarist, song-writer, and folksinger, lost her two-year fight with cancer on April 27, 2022. She died peacefully at home surrounded by best friend Michele Michaels, her partner Dianne Post, and Kaweah, a fellow singer -songwriter who shared her spiritual rituals. In the last few days of her life, she was serenaded by many of her musical cousins in New Zealand, her best mate in the world Hilary King from New Zealand, and friends and family from the east coast to the west of the US
Jess was born in Salisbury, Rhodesia (now Harare, Zimbabwe) in 1957. She started on the guitar at 10-years-old and was soon playing with the Dolly Jacks, the first girls guitar group on the local children’s television program. The music never stopped.
After secondary school, she went to South Africa where her mother was from and went to college while waiting tables with a white napkin on her arm, talking snobbishly about wine, and playing music. From there she went to England where she worked in a girls’ school that abutted land where the royalty rode by on their horses and were roundly criticized when they deigned to ignore the local troubled girls. Her brother remembers living with her there and when he arrived, he could not believe it could be the place. They shared a single room on the second floor with no water, no bathroom, no toilet and a fierce dog who would not let them pass if he was out. But England was too cold and rainy so off she went to New Zealand. Her father Peter was a New Zealander and he and her mother Daphne had relocated from Zimbabwe.
In New Zealand she found her musical stride. She was in a traveling revue called “Born to Clean” something for which she was most decidedly not born. She played in the band Red Berylat the Alex with the flaming red-haired Hilary King sliding down a rope from the ceiling for a dramatic entrance. A great lesbian community nurtured the talents of so many and her supportive musical family piled on.
After ten years it was time to spread her Hawk wings further. She worked her passage to the US on a German freighter swabbing the deck most of the time. Again, her brother remembers he and their Mum dropping her off at a dirty remote wharf as she climbed aboard that little boat and sailed off to the USA. The ship arrived on July 4th, the American Independence Day and they could not dock due to the celebrations so they hung out in Hawaii for a day. Then on to San Francisco. Of course, she bought a VW van, the transport of all traveling musicians, for $600 and started on her US journey.
When she contacted the Arizona Women’s Music Festival for a slot, she was told that it was full but she could play in the afternoon open mike. Then the lead band, a six-piece women’s band from Australia, did not get their visas and could not make it. Jess said, “Well it only takes one New Zealander to make up for six Aussies.” Dianne Post, the organizer, thought that was pretty funny, and Jess became the lead performer.
Post then became her agent and booked her around the country and Canada for six years during which she made two albums – “Your Heart Will Show You” and “Leave a Little Light Behind”. Tapes they were then, later converted to CD. From there, she went to Tucson and became the house band for a venue and began to work at the library. Books and music were her two favorite things. In 2005 she became a dual American citizen.
When she returned to Phoenix six years later, she went to work for the Scottsdale Public Library and ended up there for 18 years. Not only did they love her creativity and congenial personality, they loved her music and art that she made for Youth Services. Her last project was a video about an African safari teaching children about the landscape and animals with her as the tour guide in the Arizona desert stalking about in her khakis and bush hat. It was widely praised, and she looked forward to doing more which unfortunate never happened.
At the library she met Kate DeLaPointe, a singer-songwriter with a voice that perfectly complemented Jess’ and they started a duo called Wayward Maggie – and they were wayward. Michele Michaels became their manager and they performed around the valley and state in many folk festivals and venues. They produced an album called “Rare Delights” in 2008 and performed up until April of 2021. Their last work was a series of six live music videos called Start Your Day With a Song, for Scottsdale Senior Services that were posted weekly on Facebook during COVID lockdown time. Google “Start Your day with a song Scottsdale senior services” and all six will pop up.
She is survived by her mother Daphne Davies, her brother Rik Davies and his children, her partner, and a bevy of cousins and friends, former band mates, and musical conspirators and library fairies around the world and her music. She did indeed Leave a Little Light Behind. Arrangements by United Tissue Network.