I Put a Spell on You

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"I Put a Spell on You"
I Put a Spell on You by Screamin' Jay Hawkins US vinyl.jpg
A-side label of the 1956 U.S. 7-inch vinyl single
Single by Screamin' Jay Hawkins
from the album At Home with Screamin' Jay Hawkins
B-side"Little Demon"
ReleasedNovember 1956 (1956-11)
RecordedSeptember 12, 1956[1]
Producer(s)Arnold Maxin
Screamin' Jay Hawkins singles chronology
"Even Though"
"I Put a Spell on You"
"You Made Me Love You"

"I Put a Spell on You" is a 1956 song written and composed by Jalacy "Screamin' Jay" Hawkins, whose own recording of it was selected as one of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. It was also included in Robert Christgau's "Basic Record Library" of 1950s and 1960s recordings—published in Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies (1981)[5]—and ranked No. 313 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. The selection became a classic cult song covered by a variety of artists and was his greatest commercial success, reportedly surpassing a million copies in sales,[6][7] even though it failed to make the Billboard pop or R&B charts.[8][9]

The original composition[edit]

Hawkins had originally intended to record "I Put a Spell on You" as "a refined love song, a blues ballad".[citation needed] However, the producer Arnold Maxin "brought in ribs and chicken and got everybody drunk, and we came out with this weird version ... I don't even remember making the record. Before, I was just a normal blues singer. I was just Jay Hawkins. It all sort of just fell in place. I found out I could do more destroying a song and screaming it to death."[10]

Hawkins first recorded "I Put a Spell on You" as a ballad during his stint with Grand Records in late 1955. However, that version was not released at the time (it has since been reissued on Hawkins' UK Rev-Ola CD The Whamee 1953–55). The following year, Hawkins re-recorded the song for Columbia's Okeh Records—the notorious screaming version, which was released in October 1956. However, this version was banned from most radio programming for its outrageous "cannibalistic" style. A truncated version was later released omitting the grunts and moans from the ending of the song, but the ban generally remained.[11] Despite the restriction, the record still sold over a million copies.[12]

The hit brought Hawkins together with Cleveland disc jockey Alan Freed who promptly added him to his "Rock and Roll Revue". Up to this time, Hawkins had been a blues performer; emotional, but not wild. Freed suggested a gimmick to capitalize on the "demented" sound of "I Put a Spell on You": Hawkins wore a long cape, and appeared onstage by rising out of a coffin in the midst of smoke and fog.[13] The act was a sensation, later bolstered by tusks worn in Hawkins' nose, on-stage snakes and fireworks, a cigarette-smoking skull named "Henry" and, ultimately, Hawkins transforming himself into "the black Vincent Price".[14] This theatrical act was one of the first shock rock performances.[15]

The original version recurs in the film Stranger than Paradise.



"I Put a Spell on You" has been covered by other artists extensively; there are several hundred versions. Most of the covers treat the song seriously; few attempt to duplicate Hawkins' bravura performance. Although Hawkins' own version never charted, several later cover versions have.

Other versions of note:

Alan Price version[edit]

"I Put a Spell on You"
Belgian single sleeve
Single by Alan Price Set
ReleasedMarch 18, 1966
RecordedJanuary 1–2, 1966
StudioKingsway, London
Alan Price Set singles chronology
"Any Day Now (My Wild Beautiful Bird)"
"I Put a Spell on You"
"Hi-Lili, Hi-Lo"
"I Put a Spell on You" on YouTube

Background and recording[edit]

In May 1965, keyboardist Alan Price left pop group the Animals, shortly after the release of their single "Bring It On Home to Me".[22] The reason for his departure from the group has been debated; though some sources claim it was a fear of flying stemming from their American tours,[23][24] others claim it was a feud between lead singer Eric Burdon and Price regarding royalties over their 1964 single "The House of the Rising Sun", which solely credited Price as an arranger thus leaving the other members without any payments for the song.[24][25] Price himself states that he left the day the band embarked on a tour to Sweden.[26] Price then decided on beginning a solo career while the Animals recruited a new keyboardist, initially Mick Gallagher for a short tour before settling on Dave Rowberry.[27]

Price then started putting together a band of his own, which consisted of baritone saxophonist Clive Burrows, tenor saxophonist Steve Gregory, guitarist Peter Kirtley, bassist Rod Slade, drummer Roy Mills along with trumpeter John Walters, whom he had met during his time in the Animals.[28][29] The band quickly garnered a recording contract with Decca Records and subsequently debuted on record with a cover of Burt Bacharach's "Any Day Now (My Wild Beautiful Bird)" in August 1965. Although this release failed to chart, it "showed great promise".[30]

Price allegedly came to know about "I Put a Spell on You" through vocalist Chris Farlowe, who had a record collection comprising mostly of rhythm and blues along with soul music.[29] It is unclear what version of the song he heard for his version, however, as the Animals were big fans of Nina Simone it is likely Price heard it through her version.[31] It was however part of the group's repertoire for a while before being recorded, which occurred during a rather tense moment of Price's life, as his mother passed away on New Year's Eve 1965, the day prior to recording it, which according to Price meant that "emotions sort of transmuted themselves onto the record".[26] The recording, which took place at Kingsway Recording Studios in London, was produced by Price together with manager Mike Jeffery.[32] It was according to Price "also the cheapest hit record to produce", allegedly only costing £16 to produce.[32] It was recorded rather straightforward in one take with the exception of a re-take involving the horn section.[32]

Release and reception[edit]

"I was fed up with people looking around for ‘commercial’ sounds for me month after month, and I decided to do "I Put A Spell On You". We’d been doing it on stage for some time and it had been going down well.”

Alan Price (1966)[33]

"I Put a Spell on You" was released through Decca Records on March 18, 1966, in the United Kingdom.[34] It was backed by "Iechyd-Da", an original instrumental composition written by John Walters. It quickly became a large hit, entering the Record Retailer chart on April 6, 1966, at a position of number 38.[35] It peaked at number 9 on April 27, a position it would hold for two weeks before dropping of the chart on June 8 at a position of number 50.[35] It fared similarly well on the other British charts, reaching number 12 in Melody Maker, New Musical Express and Disc.[36][37][38] It also reached number 1 on Fab 40.[39] It became a small hit in the United States, reaching number 80 on the Billboard Hot 100 in August of that year.[40]

Upon release, the single garnered generally positive reviews amongst critics. In Record Mirror, Peter Jones and Norman Jopling describe the single as having "sepulchral tones" set to the backing of Price's organ.[41] They also state that the build-up with Price's "moody vocals" "builds well" while ending on the notion that it is his best recording "since leaving the Animals".[41] In a blind date for Melody Maker with Barry Fantoni, the record is described as having vocals similar to Eric Burdon.[42] Beyond Burdon, Fantoni also believes there are traces of Steve Winwood in Price's voice.[42] He states that the "minor progressions are great" and ends on the notion that it "deserves to do well" due to its "big sound" reminiscent of James Brown.[42] Hawkins' was apparently not keen on Price's version due to the commercial success it had, as it kept him out of the spotlight. He is alleged to have stated "how could this white boy get credit for this black boy's song?" after watching Price perform it.[43] Additionally, Price was critical of Hawkins' original version of the song, calling it "terrible" compared to Nina Simone's version.[44]

Derek Johnson believes that "I Put a Spell on You" is one of the "finest rhythm and blues discs ever waxed in this country."[44] Retrospectively, the single has also received praise by critics. Richie Unterberger of AllMusic considered it "brilliant",[45] while also comparing it to previous material by the Animals, ending on the notion that it is "bluesy".[46] Unterberger also claims that "I Put a Spell on You" is "his best early performance",[47] "marvellous",[48] while also stating that it was amongst the best British hits not to become big in America.[49] Though never included on an album upon original release, it has later appeared on many albums by Price, the first being This Price Is Right in 1968.[47]


Weekly chart performance for "I Put a Spell on You"
Chart (1966) Peak


Australia (Kent Music Report)[50] 35
France (IFOP)[51] 31
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[52] 11
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[53] 10
New Zealand (Listener)[54] 15
UK (Disc and Music Echo)[36] 12
UK (Fab 40)[39] 1
UK (Melody Maker)[37] 12
UK (New Musical Express)[38] 12
UK (Record Retailer)[35] 9
US Billboard Hot 100[40] 80
US Cashbox Looking Ahead[55] 105
US Record World Upcoming Singles[56] 106

Annie Lennox version[edit]

"I Put a Spell on You"
Single by Annie Lennox
from the album Nostalgia
ReleasedSeptember 15, 2014
  • Jay Hawkins
  • Herb Slotkin
Annie Lennox singles chronology
"The Holly and the Ivy"
"I Put a Spell on You"

Annie Lennox recorded her own version of the song in 2013, and released it on September 15, 2014, as the lead single from her sixth studio album Nostalgia.

The original release failed to make any impact on charts until it was included on the 2015 film Fifty Shades of Grey, after the inclusion the song did chart in the US, UK and France.


Charts (2015) Peak
France (SNEP) 29
UK Singles (OCC) 63
US Billboard Hot 100 97


Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[57] Silver 200,000double-dagger

double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Screamin' Jay Hawkins - I Put A Spell On You The Singles 1954 - 1957". Discogs.
  2. ^ Bush, John. Screamin' Jay Hawkins - I Put a Spell on You at AllMusic. Retrieved 7 November 2015.
  3. ^ Pareles, John (February 14, 2000). "Screamin' Jay Hawkins, 70, Rock's Wild Man". The New York Times. Retrieved July 2, 2019.
  4. ^ McPadden, Mike (May 1, 2012). If You Like Metallica ... : Here Are Over 200 Bands, CDs, Movies, and Other Oddities That You Will Love. Backbeat Books. p. 37. ISBN 978-1-4768-1357-8. Retrieved November 7, 2015.
  5. ^ Christgau, Robert (1981). "A Basic Record Library: The Fifties and Sixties". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies. Ticknor & Fields. ISBN 0899190251. Retrieved March 16, 2019 – via robertchristgau.com.
  6. ^ Komara, Edward M. (2006). Encyclopedia of the Blues: A-J. Routledge. p. 415. ISBN 9780415926997. Retrieved December 4, 2008.
  7. ^ Sikov, Ed (1996). Laughing Hysterically: American Screen Comedy of the 1950s. Columbia University Press. p. 17. ISBN 9780231079839. Retrieved December 4, 2008.
  8. ^ a b Whitburn, Joel (2003). Top Pop Singles 1955–2002 (1st ed.). Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. ISBN 0-89820-155-1.
  9. ^ a b Whitburn, Joel (1996). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942–2004. Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research. ISBN 0-89820-115-2.
  10. ^ Julia Rubiner, Contemporary Musicians: Profiles of the People in Music, Volume 8, Gale, 1992, p.117
  11. ^ Dimery, Robert, ed. (2013). 1001 songs you must hear before you die (Rev. and updated ed.). London. p. 81. ISBN 9781844037360. OCLC 855705641.
  12. ^ Larkin, Colin (2011), The Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Omnibus Press, p. 2680, ISBN 978-0-85712-595-8
  13. ^ Morris, Chris (February 26, 2000), "Legendary Screamin' Jay Hawkins Dies At 70", Billboard
  14. ^ Burnside, John (May 7, 2015). I Put a Spell on You. ISBN 9780099554943.
  15. ^ Gillespie, Paula, and Neal Lerner. The Allyn and Bacon Guide to Peer Tutoring. Boston: Allyn, 2000. Print.
  16. ^ a b Joel Whitburn's Bubbling Under the Billboard Hot 100 1959-2004
  17. ^ Brown, Tony, Jon Kutner & Neil Warwick, The Complete Book of the British Charts: Singles and Albums, Omnibus Press, London, 2002 p. 911
  18. ^ "Creedence Clearwater Revival Setlist at Woodstock". setlist.fm.
  19. ^ Brown, Tony, Jon Kutner & Neil Warwick, The Complete Book of the British Charts: Singles and Albums, Omnibus Press, London, 2002 p. 371
  20. ^ Betts, Graham (2004). Complete UK Hit Singles 1952–2004 (1st ed.). London: Collins. ISBN 0-00-717931-6.
  21. ^ "Nominees And Winners – GRAMMY.com". National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.
  22. ^ Helander, Brock (2001). The Rockin' 60s: The People Who Made the Music. Schirmer Trade. p. 246. ISBN 978-08-571-28-119.
  23. ^ "Alan Price's fear of flying". Bournemouth Echo. May 21, 2010. Retrieved December 10, 2022.
  24. ^ a b Irvin, Jim (2007). The Mojo Collection (4th ed.). Canongate Books. p. 46. ISBN 978-18-476-76-436.
  25. ^ Deming, Mark. "The Animals Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved December 10, 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  26. ^ a b Eden, Dawn (December 1965). "Price on His Head". Goldmine. Archived from the original on November 24, 2007. Retrieved December 10, 2022.
  27. ^ Jucha, Gary J. (2013). Jimi Hendrix FAQ: All That's Left to Know About the Voodoo Child. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 67. ISBN 978-16-171-35-668.
  28. ^ Larkin, Colin (1992). The Guinness Who’s Who of Indie and New Wave Music. Guinness Publishing. p. 307. ISBN 0-85112-579-4.
  29. ^ a b Swift, Kevin. "Alan's Faith Paid Off..." (PDF). Beat Instrumental (May 1966): 4.
  30. ^ Larkin, Colin (2011). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music. Omnibus Press. p. 1984. ISBN 978-08-57-125-958.
  31. ^ Luhrssen, Daniel; Larson, Michael (2017). Encyclopedia of Classic Rock. ABC-Clio. p. 6. ISBN 978-14-408-351-48.
  32. ^ a b c I Put A Spell On You: The Decca / Deram Singles A's And B's (liner notes pg. 2). Dopson, Roger. Alan Price Set. Connoisseur Collection. 2000.
  33. ^ Webmaster. "Alan Price biography". Absoluteelsewhere. Retrieved December 10, 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  34. ^ "Spencer tries a second Edwards comp" (PDF). Record Mirror (March 12, 1966): 4.
  35. ^ a b c Brown, Tony. (2000). The Complete Book of the British Charts. Omnibus Press. p. 785. ISBN 0-7119-7670-8.
  36. ^ a b "Disc Top 50" (PDF). Disc and Music Echo (April 23, 1966): 3.
  37. ^ a b "Melody Pop 50". Melody Maker (April 23, 1966): 2.
  38. ^ a b "NME Top 30" (PDF). New Musical Express (April 22, 1966): 5.
  39. ^ a b "Big L Fab Forty 66 – April 17, 1966". Radio London Ltd. Retrieved December 10, 2022.
  40. ^ a b "Billboard Hot" (PDF). Billboard (August 13, 1966).
  41. ^ a b Jopling, Norman; Jones, Peter. "Rapid reviews" (PDF). Record Mirror (March 19, 1966): 8.
  42. ^ a b c Fantoni, Barry. "Blind Date" (PDF). Melody Maker (March 19, 1966): 10.
  43. ^ Smith, Earl; Butler, Jerry (2000). Only the Strong Survive: Memoirs of a Soul Survivor. Indiana University Press. p. 233. ISBN 978-02-53-337-962.
  44. ^ a b Johnson, Derek. "Alan Price's Faith Pays Off" (PDF). New Musical Express (April 1, 1966): 9.
  45. ^ Unterberger, Richie. "The Price to Play Review". AllMusic. Retrieved December 10, 2022.
  46. ^ Unterberger, Richie. "Alan Price Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved December 10, 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  47. ^ a b Unterberger, Richie. "Price Is Right Review". AllMusic. Retrieved December 10, 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  48. ^ Unterberger, Richie. "House That Jack Built: The Complete 60's Sessions Review". AllMusic. Retrieved December 10, 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  49. ^ Unterberger, Richie. "The World of Alan Price Review". AllMusic.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  50. ^ Kent, David (2005). Australian Chart Book 1940–1969. Australian Chart Book Pty Ltd, Turramurra, N.S.W. ISBN 0-646-44439-5.
  51. ^ "InfoDisc : Les Tubes de chaque Artiste commençant par P". infodisc.fr. Retrieved May 6, 2022.
  52. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – week 21, 1966" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40.
  53. ^ "Alan Price Set – I Put A Spell On You" (in Dutch). Single Top 100.
  54. ^ "I Put A Spell On You - Alan Price Set". Flavour of New Zealand. New Zealand Listener. Retrieved December 10, 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  55. ^ "Looking Ahead" (PDF). Cashbox (July 30, 1966).
  56. ^ "Upcoming singles" (PDF). Record World (August 6, 1966).
  57. ^ "British single certifications – Annie Lennox – I Put a Spell on You". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved October 14, 2022.