Saturday, August 27, 2016
The origin story typically goes something like this: On September 12, 1956, a rhythm-and-blues aspirant named Jalacy Hawkins, twenty-seven years old, native of Cleveland, entered a New York recording studio to cut a handful of sides for Okeh Records, a subsidiary of the Columbia label. One of the songs Hawkins brought to the session, an original he'd penned himself, followed a heartbroken protagonist who, in a fit of desperation, turns to black magic to beguile the strayed object of his affection.
He'd actually recorded another version of "I Put a Spell on You" months earlier. It's difficult to imagine, considering the sturdiness of Hawkins' baritone, but at that time he crooned the number entirely straight. His model was Johnny Ace, the Memphis preacher's son with the impossibly tender voice - specifically, the hit single "Pledging My Love," a favorite of Hawkins', with its syrupy arrangement, heavy on the tinkling vibes, Johnny purring the lyrics like a lullaby.
Forrrrever my darrrrling ....
"I Put a Spell on You" was a sweet ballad when I wrote it.
-Mark Binelli, Screamin' Jay Hawkins' All-Time Greatest Hits: A Novel
You may listen to Johnny Ace here