Monday, February 7, 2011

Screamin' Jay Hawkins -- "I Put A Spell On You" (1956)

I put a spell on you 
Because you're mine 

Shortly before he died in a Paris suburb in 2000, Jalacy "Screamin' Jay" Hawkins told Maral Nigolian that he had fathered 57 children.  The singer was married six times -- number six was only 31 when he died -- and had numerous girlfriends (one of whom stabbed him in the back when she learned he had cheated on her) and more than his share of one-night stands as well.

After his death, Nigolian decided to organize a reunion of as many of Hawkins' offspring as she could locate.  She created a website -- (which is no longer operating, alas) -- that got thousands of responses from people who thought they might be related to Hawkins or perhaps just had too much time on their hands. 

Nigolian concluded that Hawkins likely had closer to 75 children, and managed to identify and contact almost half of them.  Some of the ones she was able to track down got together in 2000 to honor their father.  I was unable to discover if there were been any subsequent reunions.

Hawkins originally envisioned "I Put A Spell On You" as a traditional ballad.  But he said the record producer brought in ribs and chicken and booze and all the musicians got drunk.  Hawkins' demented recording was like nothing ever heard before.  The record company decided the original version was too overtly sexual and released a second version without all the grunts.  But many radio stations still banned it.

Alan Freed
"I Put A Spell On You" never made the Billboard charts, but supposedly sold over a million copies over the years.  Famous rock 'n' roll disc jockey Alan Freed knew a good thing when he heard it, and invited Hawkins to  join his touring "Rock and Roll Review." 

Freed came up with the idea of having Hawkins dress up like a voodoo priest, complete with a long cape and bones in his nose and a cigarette-smoking skull named "Henry."  Hawkins made his onstage appearance by rising out of a coffin as the band played the song's introduction.

Not surprisingly, Hawkins had a rather bizarre career subsequent to "I Put A Spell On You."  He recorded a song called "Constipation Blues," which featured him grunting rudely like he was suffering from you-know-what.  (He once performed the song while sitting on a toilet.)  In 1991, he released an album titled Black Music for White People

Director Jim Jarmusch featured "I Put A Spell On You" in his 1983 movie, Stranger Than Paradise.

Hawkins had roles in several movies -- including an appearance as himself in American Hot Wax, the 1978 Alan Freed biopic, which starred (among others) Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Fran Drescher, Laraine Newman (remember her from "Saturday Night Live"?), Melanie Chartoff (remember her from ABC's "SNL" knockoff, "Fridays"?) and Jay Leno.

George Clinton
Dr. John, Alice Cooper, Arthur Brown, Black Sabbath, Ted Nugent, George Clinton, Marilyn Manson -- they all are really just Screamin' Jay Hawkins imitators.

A group of musicians and other celebrities -- including members or former members of the Pogues, Clash, Pretenders, and Sex Pistols, plus Johnny Depp -- did a version of "I Put A Spell On You" to raise money for Haitian earthquake relief.  Seems like an odd song to choose.

Here's Screamin' Jay Hawkins performing the song for which he will be remembered forever:

Here's a link you can use to order the song from iTunes:

I Put a Spell On You - I Put a Spell On You - the Best Of

Here's a link to us if you prefer to buy the song from Amazon:

No comments:

Post a Comment