"He Hit Me (And It Felt Like a Kiss)" is a written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King for girl groupthe Crystals under the guidance of Phil Spector in 1962. Goffin and King wrote the song after discovering that their babysitter and singer Little Eva was being regularly beaten by her boyfriend. When they inquired why she tolerated such treatment, Eva replied, with complete sincerity, that her boyfriend's actions were motivated by his love for her.
It was a brutal song, as any attempt to justify such violence must be, and Spector’s arrangement only amplified its savagery, framing Barbara Alston’s lone vocal amid a sea of caustic strings and funereal drums, while the backing vocals almost trilled their own belief that the boy had done nothing wrong. In more ironic hands (and a more understanding age), 'He Hit Me' might have passed at least as satire. But Spector showed no sign of appreciating that, nor did he feel any need to. No less than the song’s writers, he was not preaching, he was merely documenting.
Upon its initial release, "He Hit Me" received some airplay, but then there was a widespread protest of the song, with many concluding that the song was an endorsement of spousal abuse. Soon, the song was played only rarely on the radio, as now.
The 1930 Frank Borzage film Liliom contains the line "He hit me and it felt like a kiss" in its final scene. The film was not a success and nothing suggests that Goffin or King had seen it. Liliom, originally a play by Hungarian playwright Ferenc Molnár, was the basis for the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical classic, Carousel. While King and Goffin may not have seen Liliom, it is possible that they were familiar with the successful 1956 film version of Carousel, which contains essentially the same line. However, King has stated that their friend who inspired the song had used that exact phrase.
Carole King, in that same radio interview, said that she was sorry she had ever had anything to do with the song. She was a survivor of repeated domestic abuse (but not from Goffin, who had been her husband from 1959 to 1969.)
The song was played in its entirety on the September 26, 2007, episode of The Tom Leykis Show titled 'The One They Won't Play'. The subject of the show's hour was in relation to Phil Spector's writing and production of the song, and the fact that he got married in the period between being accused of the murders and the end of his trial.
2007 – Grizzly Bear, during the headlining tour for their album Yellow House They also recorded the song during a Daytrotter session in February 2007, to be made available online for download. A studio version of the song was released on the band's Friend EP, while a live take was released as the B-side to "While You Wait for the Others" on the Live on KCRW 7".
Courtney Love's band, Hole, played a cover of the song as part of their MTV Unplugged performance. Love introduced the song by saying, "This is a really sick song. It's one of those Spector songs and it was written by Carole King, which… you have to think." At the end of the song, Love commented "Nice feminist anthem."