This song was writ­ten in 1956 by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins as a bal­lad, but he claims the pro­duc­er got him drunk in the stu­dio and that’s when he start­ed Screamin’, and peo­ple loved it, so he nev­er stopped. Since then, it’s been record­ed a whole lot. I’m here to rec­om­mend a mi­ni video festival’s worth of takes, and one record­ing, and this may be a lit­tle weird but I think it’s the best out there, by Cree­dence Clear­wa­ter Re­vival.

I ac­tu­al­ly think the Jay Hawkins sto­ry is a lit­tle sad. He was a good song­writ­er with a huge, thun­der­ous voice, and af­ter this song he turned his stage act in­to a sort of slap­stick voodoo-shaman sideshow. I have to ad­mit it makes for pret­ty amus­ing video; al­so I gath­er he got paid pret­ty well for it, and it’s hard to be against any­thing that gets a mu­si­cian paid.

Screamin’ Jay Hawkins

Any­how, the way I Put A Spell On You be­came a Song of the Day is I was walk­ing to the train lis­ten­ing to Shuf­fle All Songs and this wicked-sharp ex­cel­lent blues came on, just out­stand­ing singing and feel­ing and gui­tar, and I asked my­self “Who the hell is that?” and it turned out to be Cree­dence. When I sat down to write this I im­me­di­ate­ly dis­cov­ered Screamin’ Jay, and, well, just skip down to the Links sec­tion for some weird and won­der­ful stuff.

I sup­pose few peo­ple un­der six­ty even know that there was once a band called Cree­dence Clear­wa­ter Re­vival but when I was about twelve the teenag­er up­stairs used to play them, and I’d lie in my room with the win­dow open and just lis­ten. If this goes on long enough I’ll drop in one or two more of their songs, which are a unique blend of soul­ful Amer­i­can elec­tric fla­vors. It turns out they were most­ly a ve­hi­cle for John Foger­ty, who wrote a lot of songs that you’d rec­og­nize even if you nev­er heard of Cree­dence. But any­how, this is just a cov­er of Screamin’ Jay’s orig­i­nal.

This is part of the Song of the Day se­ries (back­ground).

Links · Spo­ti­fy playlist. Creedence’s take on Ama­zon, iTunes, Spo­ti­fy. Now, as for video, oh my good­ness gra­cious. I guess I should start with the clas­sic Screamin’ Jay shtick. And since I rec­om­mend the Cree­dence record­ing, here they are at Wood­stock (s­lop­py), and then here’s John Foger­ty in 1997; a very fine per­for­mance, maybe the purest, and John re­al­ly brings it on gui­tar.

Now, for some rea­son, there seems to be some­thing that hap­pens when two fa­mous and en­tire­ly un­re­lat­ed mu­si­cians get to­geth­er in a stu­dio that makes them want to do I Put a Spell on You. For ex­am­ple, here’s Bri­tish blueswom­an Mi­ca Paris with a super-hot slow-burn, some dude named David Gil­mour play­ing gui­tar. Speak­ing of Gil­mour, here he is back­ing up an­ther skin­ny Brit white boy, name of Pete Town­shend. Two of the biggest gui­tar names in his­to­ry on stage and they don’t play much, but you might want to watch this any­how, Pete bites down hard on the vo­cals in a weird­ly campy way but with to­tal com­mit­men­t, it’s a re­al­ly ace piece of blues singing. Fa­mous gui­tarist/singer com­bos? Here’s Jeff Beck and Joss Stone and they’re on­ly OK. Let’s leave the gui­tars be­hind and ap­pre­ci­ate some late-stage Joe Cock­er; not everyone’s cup of tea but I thought it was hon­est and mov­ing.

I’ve saved the best  —  well, the weird­est, any­how  —  for the last; Ig­gy Pop with French chanteuse Cather­ine Ringer. I to­tal­ly lack words to de­scribe what they do, but if you watch it, you won’t soon for­get it. Se­ri­ous­ly.



Contributions

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From: Rob (Mar 18 2018, at 17:05)

I hadn't been aware of the Iggy Pop version, pretty cool, thanks for that.

Best recent take I've heard is Samantha Fish https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ymsb_4Z3uy0

BTW Old Screamin' Jay had another hit, quite um profound in its own way

"Let it go! Let it go! Let it go!

I don't think I can take much more

Let it go

Aah

I got a pain down inside

It won't be denied

Every time I try

I can't be satisfied

Let it go!"

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ic3g8Xnf7LI

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From: APĀ² (Mar 24 2018, at 07:41)

"It's Screamin' Jay Hawkins, and he's a wild man, so bug off."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8sNGHEhb3ZI

I have Jim Jarmush to thank for discovering this great song, which he used in *Stranger than Paradise* (which I greatly recommend).

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From: Martin Fowler (Mar 26 2018, at 14:04)

A version of this song I've really liked is by Natalia Mateo, a Romainian Jazz singer. It's on her album Heart of Darkness, which is one of my favorite recent discoveries. There's also a live version at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j1x3nUDI6Y4&t=890s

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