This week is the week leading up to Halloween and, therefore, Nina Simone’s “I Put a Spell On You” has been #OnRepeat, especially because Bette Midler kills her version of this song in the movie Hocus Pocus (a movie I watch every year during this time).
Nina Simone was a songwriter, pianist, arranger, singer and an activist from North Carolina who was known as a Jazz vocalist, but implemented Gospel, R&B, Blues, Jazz, and Pop music with elements of Classical music. She recorded more than 40 albums and her improvisational technique, musical arranging, stage presence and socially conscious performances made her one of the most influential singers of her time. Some of her most well-known songs are “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” “Feeling Good,” “Sinner Man,” and “I Loves You, Porgy.”
“I Put A Spell On You” was originally written by the singer and actor, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins in 1956 with a different theme, but–in true Nina Simone fashion–Simone changed around the words and musical arrangement, transforming it into a song about someone madly in love with someone else despite how they mistreat them. Her vocal licks, musical phrasing and her performance of the words made this one of her most well-known songs (it is definitely my favorite). The desperation, angst, and stubbornness conveyed in the lyrics is magnified by Simone’s powerful, deep voice, her use of long straight tones, and intermittent scatting.
Take a listen below:
Here is Bette Midler’s version of this song for reference:
Although I love Simone’s version, I cannot deny that both vocalists perform amazing versions of this classic song, both bringing their own unique interpretation of the lyrics and music.
What do you think? Which version do you like? Leave a comment below!