Certain stores banned the original version of I Put a Spell You, but its magic was too powerful to be kept down. Now one of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that shaped Rock and Roll, I Put a Spell on You by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins transcends time and place, and has achieved iconic status in American popular culture. This widely recorded and much interpreted song permeates the musical atmosphere that we breathe and live.
In 1956, Jalacy Hawkins entered the studio, planning to record a blues ballad he had been performing live with some success. Producer Arnold Maxon had other ideas, and to fulfill them, he brought plenty of alcohol and food and alcohol (not to mention alcohol) into the studio. Hours later, Hawkins staggered up to the microphone and unleashed one of the rawest, bloodiest, most gut-churning vocal performances ever delivered, one that he couldn’t even remember giving the following day. The ballad-turned-reverse-exorcism was banned in radio stations nationwide (they claimed the blast of demented gibberish at the end simulated cannibalism), and the song never charted. Didn’t matter. Jalacy Hawkins would forever after be Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, and “I Put a Spell On You” would be his raucous calling card.