Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood
|"Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood"|
|Single by Nina Simone from the album Broadway, Blues, Ballads|
|Recorded||New York City|
|Broadway, Blues, Ballads track listing|
"Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" is a song written by Bennie Benjamin, Gloria Caldwell and Sol Marcus for the jazz singer and pianist Nina Simone, who first recorded it in 1964. "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" has been covered by many artists, most notably by The Animals, whose blues rock version of the song became a transatlantic hit in 1965. A 1977 four-on-the-floor disco rearrangement by disco group Santa Esmeralda was also a hit.
Nina Simone original
The beginnings of "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" came with composer and arranger Horace Ott, who came up with the melody and chorus lyric line after a temporary falling out with his girlfriend (and wife-to-be), Gloria Caldwell. He then brought it to writing partners Bennie Benjamin and Sol Marcus to complete. However, when it came time for songwriting credits, rules of the time prevented BMI writers (Ott) from officially collaborating with ASCAP members (the other two), so Ott instead listed Caldwell's name on the credits.
"Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" was one of five songs involving the writing of Benjamin and Marcus, presented for Nina Simone's 1964 album Broadway-Blues-Ballads. There, it is taken at a very slow tempo and arranged around harp and other orchestral elements; a backing choir appears at several points. Simone sings it in her typically difficult-to-categorize style. Horace Ott's involvement did not end with his initial songwriting; he was the arranger and orchestral conductor for the entire album. Backed with "A Monster", "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" was released as a single in 1964, but failed to chart.
To some writers, this version of "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" carried the subtext of the American Civil Rights Movement, that concerned much of Simone's work of the time; while to others, this was more personal, and was the song, and phrase, that best exemplified Simone's career and life.
Decades later, a commercial for Christian Dior's perfume J'Adore, starring Charlize Theron, featured Simone's version of the song, as did the final scene of the 2009 Polish film drama Rewers. In 2010, Simone's version was used for the end credits of the first season finale episode of BBC's crime drama Luther; in 2011, it was used again in the trailer for the show's second season.
The Animals version
|"Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood"|
|Single by The Animals|
|B-side||"Club A Go-Go"|
|The Animals singles chronology|
The Animals' lead singer Eric Burdon would later say of the song, "It was never considered pop material, but it somehow got passed on to us and we fell in love with it immediately." The Animals sped up the tempo and started off with an electric guitar-and-organ doubled riff from Hilton Valentine and Alan Price, that was picked out and expanded from an element that originally appeared in the Simone recording's outro. This riff immediately led into Burdon's trademark deep, impassioned vocal line:
- Baby, do you understand me now?
- Sometimes I feel a little mad.
- But don't you know that no one alive can always be an angel?
- When things go wrong, I seem to be bad.
- (group unison) But I'm just a soul whose intentions are good:
- (just Burdon) Oh Lord! Please don't let me be misunderstood ...
The song was recorded in November 1964. The group gained a trans-Atlantic hit in early 1965 from their rendition, rising to number 3 on the UK Singles Chart, number 15 on the U.S. pop singles chart, and number 4 in Canada.
In Animals concerts at the time, the group maintained the recorded arrangement, but Burdon sometimes slowed the vocal line down to an almost spoken part, recapturing a bit of the Simone flavor.
Santa Esmeralda version
|"Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood"|
|Single by Santa Esmeralda|
|from the album Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood|
|Genre||Disco, Salsa, Flamenco|
|Length||16:12 (Original 1977 album version)|
A Disco version of the song by the disco group Santa Esmeralda, which took The Animals' arrangement and added some disco, flamenco, salsa, and other Latin rhythm and ornamentation elements to it, also became a hit in the late 1970s. First released in summer 1977 as a 16-minute epic that took up an entire side of their Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood album, it was picked up for more worldwide distribution by the label of the time, Casablanca Records. A 12-inch club remix was extremely popular, hitting number one on the U.S. Billboard Club Play Singles chart and in some European countries as well. The single peaked at number four on the Hot Dance/Disco-Club Play chart. Released as a pop single late in the year, it did well as well, reaching number 15 on the Billboard Hot 100 by early 1978. NBC Sports would use the song frequently in the years following its release, especially during their coverage of the World Series.
Santa Esmeralda's "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" was used as the opening theme of the 1980 pilot for the U.S. game show Bullseye, after which a sound-alike was used in regular episodes. This version of the song was also used on German ARD soccer television show Sportschau from the late 1970s to the mid-1980s, in the introduction for the "goal of the month" segment. Santa Esmeralda's rendition is featured in the 1992 film American Me and the 2001 English comedy Blow Dry. It became widely popular with a later generation after its inclusion in the 2003 Quentin Tarantino film Kill Bill: Volume 1, where its instrumental passage plays over the duel between The Bride and O-Ren Ishii, and the accompanying Kill Bill Vol. 1 Original Soundtrack, where it is incorporated in a full vocal form that runs over ten minutes. A rendition appears in the trailer for the 2005 film Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, as well as the 2008 Korean "ramyun western" film The Good, the Bad, the Weird, played in the chasing sequence in the Manchurian desert.
The Animals' Eric Burdon has re-recorded the song throughout the years, notably an eight-minute version on his 1974 album Sun Secrets, and a heavy metal performance in 1976 later released on his Live at the Roxy album. Jon English recorded a version for his album, Minutes to Midnight (1977). Since the early 1980s, Burdon has performed it in a reggae style. In a different version, it was performed during The Animals' 1983 reunion, as documented on the following year's Greatest Hits Live (Rip It to Shreds) release.
A version by Joe Cocker (from his 1969 debut album) played over the ending credits of the 2004 film Layer Cake. Cocker re-recorded it for his 1996 album Organic. Other artists who have recorded the song include The Moody Blues, Elvis Costello (from King of America), Cyndi Lauper (from At Last 2003), Tony Moran under the moniker of Latin Rascals as vocalist and co-producer with Albert Cabrera, Arthur Brown, Uthanda, Julie Driscoll with Brian Auger, King Kong & D'Jungle Girls, Mike Batt, Trevor Rabin, No Mercy, John Legend, Lou Rawls, Gary Moore, Robben Ford, New Buffalo, Farhad Mehrad, Shahram Shabpareh, The Killers, the Doug Anthony All Stars, Di'Anno, Meshell Ndegeocello, Savage Circus, King Køng, Place of Skulls, Lana Del Rey, and Jamie Cullum.
In their 1980s concerts, Dire Straits played the central theme of "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" during an instrumental introduction to their "Tunnel of Love", as Mark Knopfler talked about The Animals' hometown of Newcastle upon Tyne, near where Spanish City song is set. After Cat Stevens converted to Islam and changed his name to Yusuf Islam and left popular music, various controversies arose concerning public statements and actions. When he returned to such music, he recorded an allusion to such controversies by way of "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood", with some lyrical alterations, as featured on his 2006 album An Other Cup.
Rapper Common's "Misunderstood" sampled Nina Simone's version of her "Live in Paris" album for his 2007 album Finding Forever, while it was also sampled for the 2008 Lil Wayne album Tha Carter III, in the song "DontGetIt". The song's key lines are used as the hook of the 2012 Regina Spektor song "Oh Marcello!". Brent Smith, of the band Shinedown, has also performed a version that was featured in the trailer for the 2014 film Birdman. Lana Del Rey also covered this song for her fourth studio album Honeymoon, which was released on September 18, 2015.
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