The Real Story Behind Jay Hawkins’ “I Put A Spell On You”

The Real Story Behind Jay Hawkins’ “I Put A Spell On You” | I Love Classic Rock Videos

via Van Heller’s Cult Of Horror / Youtube

A legendary rock standard from its 1956 inception, “I Put a Spell on You” was written and composed by Jalacy “Screamin’ Jay” Hawkins.

According to legend, producer Arnold Maxin altered Hawkins’ original vision for his hallmark hit, which he intended to record as a love ballad. Apparently, 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.”

After the single was released, it generated quite a commotion. According to Hawkins, the song was first banned because it had a “cannibalistic, like a man-eating somebody” vibe. However, the song’s popularity increased once it was moderated by Maxim. Live performances see the singer wearing a glitzy gown and carrying a skull while he wails the song, “I Put a Spell on You,” embracing the song’s macabre overtones and embracing the song’s inherent theatricality.

Despite the fact that Hawkins’ version of “I Put a Spell on You” was not commercially successful, many other musicians have recorded their own versions of the song in the subsequent years. In 1965, Nina Simone released an album with the song as the title track. She got to position No. 23 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs list with her rendition of the song. Other musicians such as Alan Price, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Annie Lennox have also recorded versions of this song.

Hawkins’ rendition of “I Put the Spell on You” remains influential that it was included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s definitive list of the 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll.