I Put a Spell on You

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"I Put a Spell on You"
I Put a Spell on You by Screamin' Jay Hawkins US vinyl.jpg
A-side label of the 1956 U.S. 7-inch vinyl single
Single by Screamin' Jay Hawkins
from the album At Home with Screamin' Jay Hawkins
B-side"Little Demon"
ReleasedNovember 1956 (1956-11)
RecordedSeptember 12, 1956[1]
Producer(s)Arnold Maxin
Screamin' Jay Hawkins singles chronology
"Even Though"
"I Put a Spell on You"
"You Made Me Love 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)[5]—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,[6][7] even though it failed to make the Billboard pop or R&B charts.[8][9]

The original composition

Hawkins had originally intended to record "I Put a Spell on You" as "a refined love song, a blues ballad".[citation needed] 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."[10]

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.[11] Despite the restriction, the record still sold over a million copies.[12]

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.[13] 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".[14] This theatrical act was one of the first shock rock performances.[15]

The original version recurs in the film Stranger than Paradise.



"I Put a Spell on You" has been covered by other artists extensively; there are several hundred versions. 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:

Annie Lennox version

"I Put a Spell on You"
Single by Annie Lennox
from the album Nostalgia
ReleasedSeptember 15, 2014
  • Jay Hawkins
  • Herb Slotkin
Annie Lennox singles chronology
"The Holly and the Ivy"
"I Put a Spell on You"

Annie Lennox recorded her own version of the song in 2013, and released it on September 15, 2014, as the lead single from her sixth studio album Nostalgia.

The original release failed to make any impact on charts until it was included on the 2015 film Fifty Shades of Grey, after the inclusion the song did chart in the US, UK and France.


Charts (2015) Peak
France (SNEP) 29
UK Singles (OCC) 63
US Billboard Hot 100 97


Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[23] Silver 200,000double-dagger

double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

See also


  1. ^ "Screamin' Jay Hawkins - I Put A Spell On You The Singles 1954 - 1957". Discogs.
  2. ^ Bush, John. Screamin' Jay Hawkins - I Put a Spell on You at AllMusic. Retrieved 7 November 2015.
  3. ^ Pareles, John (February 14, 2000). "Screamin' Jay Hawkins, 70, Rock's Wild Man". The New York Times. Retrieved July 2, 2019.
  4. ^ McPadden, Mike (May 1, 2012). If You Like Metallica ... : Here Are Over 200 Bands, CDs, Movies, and Other Oddities That You Will Love. Backbeat Books. p. 37. ISBN 978-1-4768-1357-8. Retrieved November 7, 2015.
  5. ^ Christgau, Robert (1981). "A Basic Record Library: The Fifties and Sixties". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies. Ticknor & Fields. ISBN 0899190251. Retrieved March 16, 2019 – via robertchristgau.com.
  6. ^ Komara, Edward M. (2006). Encyclopedia of the Blues: A-J. Routledge. p. 415. ISBN 9780415926997. Retrieved December 4, 2008.
  7. ^ Sikov, Ed (1996). Laughing Hysterically: American Screen Comedy of the 1950s. Columbia University Press. p. 17. ISBN 9780231079839. Retrieved December 4, 2008.
  8. ^ a b Whitburn, Joel (2003). Top Pop Singles 1955–2002 (1st ed.). Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. ISBN 0-89820-155-1.
  9. ^ a b Whitburn, Joel (1996). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942–2004. Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research. ISBN 0-89820-115-2.
  10. ^ Julia Rubiner, Contemporary Musicians: Profiles of the People in Music, Volume 8, Gale, 1992, p.117
  11. ^ Dimery, Robert, ed. (2013). 1001 songs you must hear before you die (Rev. and updated ed.). London. p. 81. ISBN 9781844037360. OCLC 855705641.
  12. ^ Larkin, Colin (2011), The Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Omnibus Press, p. 2680, ISBN 978-0-85712-595-8
  13. ^ Morris, Chris (February 26, 2000), "Legendary Screamin' Jay Hawkins Dies At 70", Billboard
  14. ^ Burnside, John (May 7, 2015). I Put a Spell on You. ISBN 9780099554943.
  15. ^ Gillespie, Paula, and Neal Lerner. The Allyn and Bacon Guide to Peer Tutoring. Boston: Allyn, 2000. Print.
  16. ^ a b Joel Whitburn's Bubbling Under the Billboard Hot 100 1959-2004
  17. ^ Brown, Tony, Jon Kutner & Neil Warwick, The Complete Book of the British Charts: Singles and Albums, Omnibus Press, London, 2002 p. 911
  18. ^ Brown, Tony, Jon Kutner & Neil Warwick, The Complete Book of the British Charts: Singles and Albums, Omnibus Press, London, 2002 p. 795
  19. ^ "Creedence Clearwater Revival Setlist at Woodstock". setlist.fm.
  20. ^ Brown, Tony, Jon Kutner & Neil Warwick, The Complete Book of the British Charts: Singles and Albums, Omnibus Press, London, 2002 p. 371
  21. ^ Betts, Graham (2004). Complete UK Hit Singles 1952–2004 (1st ed.). London: Collins. ISBN 0-00-717931-6.
  22. ^ "Nominees And Winners – GRAMMY.com". National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.
  23. ^ "British single certifications – Annie Lennox – I Put a Spell on You". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved October 14, 2022.