Screamin' Jay Hawkins

I Put a Spell on You

Song Review by

An R&B "ballad" that's just as raw and primal as the voodoo implied in the title, Screamin' Jay Hawkins' "I Put a Spell on You" is one of the seminal songs from the rock & roll era. It's not only one of the great vocal performances of the period, it's also a prime piece of proof that -- Pat Boone notwithstanding -- the roots of rock & roll were just as primal as the Bible Belt figured. Hawkins first wrote and recorded the song in 1949 for the tiny Grand label, and in its first incarnation, the song actually was a ballad. By the time he re-recorded it for OKeh, in 1956, session producer Arnold Maxon suggested Hawkins make his performance just as spooky as the title. Reportedly, he turned the session into a picnic with plenty of food and alcohol for everyone involved. According to legend, when Screamin' Jay heard the results a week later, he refused to believe the assortment of screams, groans, and grunts was his performance -- and until he downed some scotch, he was unable to reproduce it. (Considering he was billed Screamin' Jay Hawkins even on the early 1949 date, the story seems apocryphal.) After radio stations across the country banned the single, Columbia (OKeh's parent) removed some of the choicer bits, but it still never even made the more risqué R&B charts. Nevertheless, hundreds of novelty fans kept the fire burning during the late '50s and early '60s, and Hawkins is celebrated as one of the early rock & roll era's most endearing performers.

In early 1965, Nina Simone made "I Put a Spell on You" just one of an inspired series of covers she performed during the era, expanding the vocal jazz repertoire to include music from R&B to French cabaret to traditional folk. Over mournful strings and her own saloon-tinged piano, Simone cries out her lyrics, warning a lover of the consequences of stepping out and staking her claim to him. As Simone spits out her final lines, "And I don't care, if you don't want me/I'm yours right now," the listener begins to wonder just who's put the spell on who. The track also became a popular cover during the late '60s for artists including Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Animals, Manfred Mann, Them, Arthur Brown, and Leon Russell.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
I Put a Spell on You [Collectables] 1957 Collectables 2:25
Stars of the Apollo 1972
Various Artists
Legacy 2:26
I Put a Spell on You [1977] 1977 Unidisc 2:17
Frenzy 1982 Edsel 2:26
Rock & Roll Show [Highland] 1987
Various Artists
Hollywood/IMG / Hollywood 2:58
No Image 1988
Various Artists
Rhino 2:26
Live & Crazy 1989 Evidence 3:50
Voodoo Jive: The Best of Screamin' Jay Hawkins 1990 Rhino 2:25
No Image 1990
Various Artists
Columbia / Sony Music Distribution
The Rock 'N' Roll Era: The '50s - Rave On 1990
Various Artists
2:28
Halloween Hits [Rhino] 1991
Various Artists
Rhino 2:27
Spellbound! 1955-74 1991 Bear Family Records
Evidence Blues Sampler 1992
Various Artists
Evidence 3:50
OKeh Rhythm & Blues 1993
Various Artists
Columbia 2:24
Rated X 1994 Performance
No Image 1994
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution
Cruisin' with Rat Fink: Music of the 50's and 60's 1995
Various Artists
Nesak International 3:29
Monkey Time and Other R&B Hits 1995
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 2:27
The OKeh Rhythm & Blues Story 1949-1957 1995
Various Artists
Epic/OKeh/Legacy 2:25
Haunted Hits: An Hour Of Scary Songs & Sounds 1996
Various Artists
Rhino 2:25
Blues Classics, Vol. 1 1997
Various Artists
Beacon Records 2:56
Ghastly Grooves [K-Tel] 1997
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 2:27
Have a Howlin' Halloween 1997
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 2:25
Blues & Soul Bible 1998
Various Artists
Dressed To Kill
Spirit of Blues 1998
Various Artists
Wagram 3:29
Alligator Wine: The Best of Screamin' Jay Hawkins 1999 Music Club Records
I Put a Spell on You [Charly] 1999 Charly Records 3:33
Sony Music 100 Years: Soundtrack for a Century 1999
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 2:25
Portrait of a Maniac 1999 Aim Records 2:13
Live at the Olympia, Paris 1999 Last Call 4:38
Greatest Hits 2000 Classic World Productions, Inc. 2:15
Essential Recordings 2000 Golden Music 3:30
Mega Slows [Wagram] 2001
Various Artists
Wagram Records 3:28
Radio Gold, Vol. 4 2001
Various Artists
Ace 2:28
My Little Shop of Horrors 2001 Fuel 2000 / Varese 3:28
Spells & Potions 2002 Recall (UK) / Snapper / Snapper Music PLC
Raw Blues, Vol. 2 2002
Various Artists
Prestige Elite
Golden Treasure: Rock 'n' Roll Superstars 2002
Various Artists
Park South Records / Orpheus Records 2:15
Blues Corner 2003
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 2:26
Rock 'N' Roll Superstars [Blumountain] 2003
Various Artists
Blumountain Records 2:15
Sex: Too Fast to Live Too Young to Die 2003
Various Artists
Olla / Only Lovers Left Alive Ltd. 2:26
20 Best Hits of the '50s 2004
Various Artists
Madacy 3:30
Last Call's Happy Hour 2004
Various Artists
Last Call 4:40
Golden Era of the 50's [Bonus DVD] 2005
Various Artists
Madacy 3:30
I Put a Spell on You: The Best of Screamin' Jay Hawkins 2005 Master Classics 3:31
Best of the Blues: 50 Favorites 2005
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 3:30
Just Like Heaven [Soundtrack] 2005
Original Soundtrack
Sony Music Distribution / Columbia/Sony 2:28
Haunted House Party 2005
Various Artists
Green Hill Productions 2:25
Spellbound 2006 Varèse Sarabande 3:48
The UK Sue Label Story, Vol. 4 2006
Various Artists
Kent 2:28
The Whamee 1953-55 2006 Rev-Ola Records 2:50
Lost Vagueness 2007
Various Artists
Universal Distribution 2:26
Van Morrison's Jukebox: The Songs That Inspired the Man 2007
Various Artists
United States of Distribution / Chrome Dreams 2:25
Soul Brothers, Vol. 3 2007
Various Artists
Kings Road 3:33
Okeh Rhythm and Blues Story 1949-1957, Vol. 3 2008
Various Artists
Blue Label / SPV
Fright Night Halloween [4 Discs] 2008
Various Artists
Diamond Recordings 3:34
The Tarantino Experience: The Ultimate Tribute to Quentin Tarantino 2008
Various Artists
Music Brokers 2:25
Essential Blues Anthology 2008
Various Artists
Not Now Music 2:27
The Best of Burlesque: 50 Original Club Classics 2009
Various Artists
Music Club Records / Demon / Music Club Deluxe 2:26
Roots of Nick Cave 2009
Various Artists
Snapper 2:26
Hard to Find Jukebox Classics 1958: Rhythm and Rock 2009
Various Artists
Hit Parade Records 2:28
Blues: Definitive Collection 2009
Various Artists
Music Brokers 2:25
Definitive Blues Anthology 2009
Various Artists
Not Now Music 2:27
The Roots of Elvis Costello 2009
Various Artists
Snapper 2:25
100 Hits: Halloween 2009
Various Artists
100 Hits 2:26
Big Box of Blues [Floating World] 2010
Various Artists
Floating World 2:29
Greatest Ever! Rock 'N' Roll Legends: The Definitive Collection 2010
Various Artists
Greatest Ever 2:27
No Image 2010 Cherished Records 2:29
Halloween Hit Mix 2011
Various Artists
BMG / Sony Music Distribution / Sony Music Entertainment 2:26
Pure... 50s 2012
Various Artists
Sony Music 2:28
Total Blues: 100 Essential Songs 2012
Various Artists
Tsk Music 2:25
I Put a Spell on You: The Essential Collection 2013 Cleopatra
Pure... Rock 'n' Roll 2013
Various Artists
Sony Music 2:25
100 Rock n Roll Hits: Jukebox Classics 2014
Various Artists
4:Squared 2:25
Blues, Blues, Hoodoo, Halloween: Scary Blues & Jazz 1925 to 1961 2014
Various Artists
Document 2:24
I Put a Spell on You: Rare Tracks and B-Sides 2015 Jambalaya
100 Hits of the 50s [Tring]
Various Artists
Tring 3:30
50 Shades of Music For Her
Various Artists
Golden Stars / Goldies 2:20
Beat From Badsville, Vol. 3: Trash Classics From Lux and Ivy's Vinyl Mountain
Various Artists
Stag-O-Lee 2:27
Big Box of Link Wray and More Kings of Distortion
Various Artists
Floating World 2:25
No Image
Various Artists
X5 3:27
Fright Night Halloween Pack
Various Artists
TGG Direct 3:34
No Image
Various Artists
Epic 2:25
The Story of the Blues Story [Not Now Music]
Various Artists
Not Now Music / Not Now UK
Tournée: Un Film de Mathieu Amalric
Original Soundtrack
Jade / Milan / Warner Bros. 2:26
Weird & Then Some! Jasmine Records 2:28
blue highlight denotes editor's pick