I Put A Spell On You!
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Oct29-07, 03:12 PM
I saw Screaming Jay live about 35 years ago. He made a grand entrance through the crowd, wearing a purple satin suit with a matching wide-brimmed hat and floor-length cape. He had to be about 6'5" tall, and he was escorted by a gorgeous little Latino lady less than 5' tall, with hair down to the backs of her knees and a mini-skirt that reached nowhere near there. When they reached the stage, she ceremoniously removed his cape, folded it, and strutted off (to appreciative whistles from the crowd) and Jay launched into a graphic rendition of "Constipation Blues". What a riot!
That must have been a treat to see!
The origin of the act is very interesting:
The song starts out with the big-voiced Hawkins singing a ballad to a lost love. Very quickly, however, the performance becomes something unique: Hawkins seems positively demented as he sings, he threatens wildly, screams, grunts and groans, and sounds utterly demonic in reclaiming the lady as his own.
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."
Math Is Hard
I love that song.
It's been amazingly popular:
"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 Natacha Atlas, Audience, Batmobile, Creedence Clearwater Revival (who performed it at Woodstock), Them, Sonique, Arthur Brown, The Animals, Leslie West, Tim Curry, Alan Price (former keyboardist with The Animals), Joe Cocker, Nick Cave, Ray Charles, Bryan Ferry, Marilyn Manson, Eels, Julien Doré, Kim Nalley, Buddy Guy (featuring Carlos Santana), and many others. There is a live performance by Pete Townshend on his Deep End Live! album (with David Gilmour).
Most of the covers treat the song seriously; few attempt to duplicate Hawkins's bravura performance.
Also, it has been sampled in songs by Notorious B.I.G. (“Kick In The Door”) and by LL Cool J (“LL Cool J”).
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 eixt music for the HalloWishes Halloween-themed fireworks 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 was 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.