"I Put a Spell on You" is a 1957 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. The song was later covered by numerous other artists, including Creedence Clearwater Revival and Marilyn Manson.
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's 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" reached the Top 40 and 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 was the progenitor of much that came later in rock and roll, including Dr. John, Alice Cooper, Screaming Lord Sutch, Warren Zevon, Arthur Brown, Black Sabbath, Ted Nugent, George Clinton, The Butthole Surfers, The Cramps, and Marilyn Manson, among the many who vied for Hawkins' title as a rock and roll madman.
Covers and samples
"I Put a Spell on You" has been covered
dozens of times, perhaps most famously by Nina Simone
on the 1965 album I Put A Spell On You
, but also by performers such as
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 in songs by the Notorious B.I.G. (“Kick In The Door”) and by LL Cool J (“LL Cool J”).
In the media
In films, it has been performed (with different lyrics) by Bette Midler
in Disney's Halloween
movie, Hocus Pocus
, of which this version has been used as exit music for the HalloWishes
show at Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party
in Walt Disney World
's Magic Kingdom
theme park; while the original version has also been covered by Diamanda Galás
, which was featured in Oliver Stone
's Natural Born Killers
. Marilyn Manson's
version was featured in David Lynch
's Lost Highway
as well as television ads for M. Night Shyamalan
's The Sixth Sense
. The Creedence Clearwater Revival
version and the Nina Simone
version were used in Rebecca Miller
's The Ballad of Jack and Rose
. It has been also played in an episode of The Simpsons
(I'm Spelling as Fast as I Can
) and an episode of The PJ's
. It was featured in the movie Stranger Than Paradise
. Hawkins performed the song on film in A Rage in Harlem
The Hawkins version has even become a standard accompaniment for ice skaters, including Michelle Kwan, Alexei Urmanov and the team of Elizabeth Punsalan and Jerod Swallow.
The song has also figured in countless radio and television advertisements, such as those for Pringles and Levi's.
It has recently featured in the BBC's Holby City promotional advert, and rock musician Danko Jones plays the track after every live show he performs with his band.