Every now and then, we come across that one song (or many, for that matter) that just makes us wish we could sing it on our own. For whatever reason, it resonates with us – it could be the melody, it could be the lyrics, or it could just be an act of jumping on the ‘song cover’ bandwagon.
Covering a song is an essential part of the conversation that takes place between the artist and their audience during the performance of the song. It is where the intention of the artist translates to how it is being received. More often than not, covers, in themselves, come up with some fresh improvisations for the already-existing song, as a means of making it more compatible with the cover artist’s style, or just to create a different rendition. At other times, cover artists simply sing it like it is – raw and in its original form.
Screamin’ Jay Hawkins song ‘I Put a Spell on You’, as it turns out, was the perfect song to cover – with 100 acclaimed artists coming up with their own versions of it. And that is not to, by any means, downgrade the original version. Covers, as we must realise, are an essential part of carrying the legacy of a song forward as well as proving the versatility of the original song.
If Hawkins’ story of how the song came into being is anything to go by, it would seem that the original song in itself was a remastered version – seeing as the first recording of the song had a bluesy, ballad-like vibe to it, while the one that was released in 1956 was well known for containing the notorious screaming, courtesy a very in-form Screamin’ Jay.
Over the years, various artists have come up with different presentations of ‘I Put a Spell on You’ using the influence gathered from their own genre of music.
Were, we look at five of the best.
The 5 best covers of ‘I Put a Spell on You’
Creedence Clearwater Revival
Creedence Clearwater Revival’s take on the song was probably one of the most well-known versions of Jay Hawkins’ original ‘I Put a Spell on You’. The American rock band, who enjoyed a somewhat brief career lasting from 1968 to 1972, featured the song as a single in their 1968 debut self-titled album.
CCR and their heavy rock influence is quite prominent in their cover of the song. Beginning with a shocking drum piece and John Fogerty’s rugged vocals, the cover was similar yet different in various aspect from the original song. CCR performed it at the Woodstock Festival in 1969.
Nina Simone was an American singer-songwriter, musician and activist. Growing up in a religious family, secular music was always looked down upon. This made Simone take cover under a pseudonym and begin her musical journey.
Simone’s musical style included a lot of jazz, blues, classical, folk R&B and so on. This was palpable in her version of ‘I Put a Spell on You’ which departed from Hawkins’ original version and harped more upon Simone’s jazz influence.
While it is not one of the more popular covers of Hawkins’ original, Natacha Atlas’ cover of ‘I Put a Spell on You’ was unique all the same. Atlas was a British-Egyptian singer well known for her diverse musical experimentations.
Coming from a multicultural background, Atlas’ musical influences included Maghrebain, hip-hop, reggae and so on. Atlas incorporated the Middle Eastern beats with the Western musical roots and managed to put forth an eccentric version of the song, which was quite unusual.
The Alan Price Set
Alan Price was the original keyboardist for the British band, the Animals. After leaving the Animals, Price embarked on the path of a solo career of his own. Even Alan Price’s solo work was a hit and miss and, for the brief period that it lasted for, he managed to see a wonderful rendition of Jay Hawkins’ ‘I Put a Spell on You’.
Price’s version was another one of the original’s covers which really caught the audience’ attention. With his deep and soulful voice and the light jazz embellishments on it, and beautiful keyboard interludes, the song was rightfully one of the top best covers of ‘I Put a Spell on You’.
Annie Lennox is a Scottish singer-songwriter who was initially part of the new wave band The Tourists and later, the Eurythmics. She began a solo career with her debut album Diva in 1992. Lennox, throughout her career, produced multiple albums and released a number of singles.
In her cover of ‘I Put a Spell on You’, Lennox’s voice held a certain kind of raw sound to it. The music was as scintillating as her voice was phenomenal. Lennox’s cover of the song was featured in the 2015 film Fifty Shades of Grey and her sultry vocals fit in there perfectly.