I Put a Spell on 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)—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 compositionHawkins 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.
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.
Other versions of note: