Well, another Friday is upon us. That means another song. Today is a song that I am really fond of. You may not know this but Screamin’ Jay Hawkins wrote and did this song first in 1956.
In 1965 Nina Simone released a very soulful version of the song.
The version I am really talking about here is the familiar version that Creedence Clearwater Revival did. Here is that version in all it’s splendor.
I just really love the blues and soul that CCR puts into this song. This song has a very interesting history. I learned a lot about this song. Please read about a little bit of what I have learned. Enjoy!
“I Put a Spell on You” is a 1956 song written by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, whose recording was selected as one of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. It was also ranked #320 on the Rolling Stone magazine’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
Although Hawkins’ version did not make any charts, several later cover versions have done so. Nina Simone‘s version reached # 23 in the US Billboard R&B chart in 1965; it also reached # 49 in the UK singles chart that year, and # 28 when it was reissued in 1969. The version by The Alan Price Set reached # 9 in the UK in 1966, and # 80 on the Billboard Hot 100. Creedence Clearwater Revival‘s version reached # 58 on the US Hot 100 in 1968. In the UK, Bryan Ferry‘s version reached # 18 in 1993, and the version by Sonique reached # 36 in 1998 and # 5 on reissue in 2000. The song has been recorded by numerous other artists. The song version by Jeff Beck featuring Joss Stone, was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal at 53rd Grammy Awards.
The original version
Hawkins had originally intended to record “I Put a Spell on You” as a refined love song, a blues ballad. He reported, however, that the producer “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.”
Some sources claim that “I Put a Spell on You” had been released earlier than 1956 in a more sedate form, but this has not been verified. The date of 1949 for an original release on the Grand label would appear unlikely, since it predates both the formation of the record label and the beginning of Hawkins’ performing career.
“I Put a Spell on You” became a quick success, despite being banned by some stores and radio stations. A softer version, minus certain sounds deemed “cannibalistic“, did not chart but brought Hawkins together with Alan Freed and his “Rock and Roll Review”.
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, and a cigarette-smoking skull named “Henry”. The theatrical act was one of the first shock rock performances, and a basis for much that came later in rock and roll, including Dr. John, Alice Cooper, Eric Burdon, Screaming Lord Sutch, Warren Zevon, Arthur Brown, Black Sabbath, Ted Nugent, George Clinton, The Butthole Surfers, The Cramps, and Marilyn Manson.
Covers and samples
“I Put a Spell on You” has been covered very many times, perhaps most famously by Nina Simone in 1965, Alan Price in 1966, and Bette Midler in the 1993 movie Hocus Pocus (film). Other artists to record the song include:
- Casey Abrams
- Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist
- The Animals
- Natacha Atlas
- Audience (band)
- Jimmy Barnes
- Jeff Beck and Joss Stone
- Tab Benoit
- The Birthday Party
- Arthur Brown
- Eric Burdon performed it live at his show in Lugano in 2006.
- C.A. Quintet
- Caterina Caselli Italian singer (cover “Puoi farmi piangere”, 1966)
- Champion with guest vocalist Betty Bonifassi
- Ray Charles
- Joe Cocker
- Creedence Clearwater Revival (who also performed it at Woodstock)
- Tim Curry
- Julien Doré
- Bryan Ferry
- Jools Holland with Mica Paris and David Gilmour
- Diamanda Galás
- The Guards (1968)
- Buddy Guy (featuring Carlos Santana)
- The Heavy
- The Kills
- Logan Kendell (feat. Jessie Crystal)
- Queen Latifah
- Phil Lesh & Friends (live cover in 2007)
- Manfred Mann
- Marilyn Manson
- Katie Melua
- Bette Midler (from the film Hocus Pocus)
- Kim Nalley
- Iggy Pop / Catherine Ringer
- Alan Price
- Gabriel Ríos
- Roxy Music
- She and Him
- Nina Simone
- Them (featuring Van Morrison)
- Pete Townshend on his Deep End Live! album (with David Gilmour).
- Bonnie Tyler
Most of the covers treat the song seriously; few attempt to duplicate Hawkins’s bravura performance. Arthur Brown comes close.
Also, it has been sampled on tracks by The Notorious B.I.G. (“Kick In The Door”), The Beatnuts (“Se Acabo”), LL Cool J and The Heavy (“Sixteen”). Producers Cookin’ Soul reworked the sample used by The Notorious B.I.G, incorporating more elements of the original song and changing the tempo, and released a song featuring Styles P of The LOX.
The song has been used as the exit music for the annual Halloween fireworks show HalloWishes at Walt Disney World in Florida. It can also be heard at the end of Halloween Screams at Disneyland and Disney’s Nightmare in the Sky at Hong Kong Disneyland.
The title of the song was borrowed to name one of the quests in the role-playing game Fallout New Vegas, as one of the numerous references and allusions to the music of the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s in that game.
I Put A Spell On You
Creedence Clearwater Revival