Evil (Howlin' Wolf song)

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Single by Howlin' Wolf
B-side "Baby How Long"
Released 1954 (1954)
Format 7" 45 RPM
Recorded May 25, 1954 in Chicago, Illinois[1]
Genre Chicago blues
Length 2:55
Label Chess (Cat. No. 1575)
Writer(s) Willie Dixon
Producer(s) Leonard Chess, Phil Chess, Willie Dixon[1]
Howlin' Wolf singles chronology
"Baby How Long"
"Forty Four"

"Evil", sometimes listed as "Evil (Is Going On)", is a Chicago blues standard written by Willie Dixon.[2] Howlin' Wolf, also known as Chester Burnett, recorded the song for Chess Records in 1954.[3] It was included on the 1959 compilation album Moanin' in the Moonlight. In 1969, "Evil" became Wolf's last charting single (#43 Billboard R&B chart) when he re-recorded it for The Howlin' Wolf Album.[4]

The 1954 song features sidemen Hubert Sumlin and Jody Williams (guitars), Otis Spann (piano), Willie Dixon (double-bass), and Earl Phillips (drums). Wolf achieves a coarse, emotional performance with his strained singing, lapsing into falsetto.[5] The song, a twelve-bar blues, is punctuated with a syncopated backbeat, brief instrumental improvisations, upper-end piano figures, and intermittent blues harp provided by Wolf.[5] The music heightens the meaning of the lyrics, that of the "evil" that takes place in a man's home when he is away: "you better watch your happy home", Wolf warns.[5]

The song has been recorded by numerous artists, including: Luther Allison, Canned Heat, Captain Beefheart, Derek and the Dominos, Gary Moore, Cactus, The Faces, Jake E. Lee, Monster Magnet, and Steve Miller. Koko Taylor's version of the song appeared in the 1987 film Adventures in Babysitting.

Tom Jones released a version of the song in 2011, produced by Jack White on White's Third Man label. The 7" single features a snippet of The Doors' "Wild Child"

Jace Everett & CC Adcock also recorded a version of the song, which was subsequently chosen as the featured track for the third season finale of the HBO series True Blood.


  1. ^ a b Chess Blues 1947-1967 (CD liner). Various artists. United States: Chess/MCA Records. 1992. CHD4-9340. 
  2. ^ Muddy Waters' "Evil" is a different song, credited to Morganfield aka Waters (1957 Chess 1680)
  3. ^ Herzhaft, Gérard (1997). Encyclopedia of the Blues. University of Arkansas Press. p. 268. ISBN 1-55728-452-0
  4. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1988). Top R&B Singles 1942-1988. Record Research, Inc. p. 198. ISBN 0-89820-068-7. 
  5. ^ a b c Floyd, Samuel A. (1995). The Power of Black Music. Oxford University Press. pp. 176-177. ISBN 0-19-508235-4

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