I Put a Spell on You
|"I Put a Spell on You"|
|Single by Screamin' Jay Hawkins|
|from the album At Home with Screamin' Jay Hawkins|
|Recorded||12 September 1956|
|Screamin' Jay Hawkins singles chronology|
"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)—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, even though it failed to make the Billboard pop or R&B charts.
The original composition
Hawkins had originally intended to record "I Put a Spell on You" as "a refined love song, a blues ballad". 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."
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. Despite the restriction, the record still sold over a million copies.
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. 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". This theatrical act was one of the first shock rock performances.
The original version recurs in the film Stranger than Paradise.
- Vocals – Jalacy Hawkins
- Guitar – Mickey Baker
- Piano – Ernie Hayes
- Tenor saxophone – Sam "The Man" Taylor
- Baritone saxophone – Bud Johnson
- Bass – Al Lucas
- Drums – David "Panama" Francis
- Arrangement – Leroy Kirkland
Covers and samples
"I Put a Spell on You" has been covered by other artists extensively; there are several hundred versions available on online stores like iTunes. 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.
- Nina Simone's version from her album of the same name reached No. 120 Pop and No. 23 on the U.S. Billboard R&B chart in 1965; it also reached No. 49 on the UK singles chart that year, and No. 28 when it was reissued in 1969.
- The version by The Alan Price Set reached No. 9 in the UK in 1966 and No. 80 on the Billboard Hot 100.
- Creedence Clearwater Revival's version reached No. 58 on the U.S. Hot 100 in 1968. The band later performed it at the Woodstock Festival in 1969.
- In the UK, Bryan Ferry's version, covered on the album Taxi, reached No. 18 in 1993.
- The version by Sonique reached No. 36 in 1998 and No. 8 on reissue in 2000.
Other versions of note:
- The Crazy World of Arthur Brown covered the song on their 1968 self-titled album, reaching No. 111 in the US.
- The 1993 Disney movie Hocus Pocus features a performance of the song sung by Bette Midler.
- Jeff Beck, with vocals by Joss Stone, covered the song on the album Emotion & Commotion in 2010. It was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal at the 53rd Grammy Awards.
- "Screamin' Jay Hawkins - I Put A Spell On You The Singles 1954 - 1957". Discogs.
- Bush, John. Screamin' Jay Hawkins - I Put a Spell on You at AllMusic. Retrieved 7 November 2015.
- Pareles, John (February 14, 2000). "Screamin' Jay Hawkins, 70, Rock's Wild Man". The New York Times. Retrieved July 2, 2019.
- Mike McPadden (1 May 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 7 November 2015.
- 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.
- Edward M. Komara (2006). Encyclopedia of the Blues: A-J. Routledge. p. 415. ISBN 9780415926997. Retrieved 2008-12-04.
- Ed Sikov (1996). Laughing Hysterically: American Screen Comedy of the 1950s. Columbia University Press. p. 17. ISBN 9780231079839. Retrieved 2008-12-04.
- Whitburn, Joel (2003). Top Pop Singles 1955–2002 (1st ed.). Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. ISBN 0-89820-155-1.
- Whitburn, Joel (1996). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942–2004. Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research. ISBN 0-89820-115-2.
- Julia Rubiner, Contemporary Musicians: Profiles of the People in Music, Volume 8, Gale, 1992, p.117
- Dimery, Robert, ed. (2013). 1001 songs you must hear before you die (Rev. and updated ed.). London. p. 81. ISBN 9781844037360. OCLC 855705641.
- Colin Larkin (2011), The Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Omnibus Press, p. 2680, ISBN 978-0-85712-595-8
- Chris Morris (Feb 26, 2000), "Legendary Screamin' Jay Hawkins Dies At 70", Billboard
- Burnside, John (2015-05-07). I Put a Spell on You. ISBN 9780099554943.
- Gillespie, Paula, and Neal Lerner. The Allyn and Bacon Guide to Peer Tutoring. Boston: Allyn, 2000. Print.
- Joel Whitburn's Bubbling Under the Billboard Hot 100 1959-2004
- Brown, Tony, Jon Kutner & Neil Warwick, The Complete Book of the British Charts: Singles and Albums, Omnibus Press, London, 2002 p. 911
- Brown, Tony, Jon Kutner & Neil Warwick, The Complete Book of the British Charts: Singles and Albums, Omnibus Press, London, 2002 p. 795
- "Creedence Clearwater Revival Setlist at Woodstock". setlist.fm.
- Brown, Tony, Jon Kutner & Neil Warwick, The Complete Book of the British Charts: Singles and Albums, Omnibus Press, London, 2002 p. 371
- Betts, Graham (2004). Complete UK Hit Singles 1952–2004 (1st ed.). London: Collins. ISBN 0-00-717931-6.
- Joel Whitburn's Bubbling Under the Billboard Hot 100 1959-2004
- "Nominees And Winners – GRAMMY.com". National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.