Nina Simone’s “I Put a Spell on You”

by janetkarrowp

Nina Simone’s “I Put a Spell on You” & Janet Karro’s “Without You”

Nina Simone’s “I Put a Spell on You”

Jazz, blues, R&B, folk and gospel – these are the musical genres that Nina Simone specialized in. The American singer also wrote songs, played the piano, arranged music and was even a civil rights activist. Her early success came in 1954 when she recorded “I Love You, Porgy” but the song “I Put a Spell on You” was not released until after the Civil Rights era in 1965. Here are the first few lines of the song:

I put a spell on you

‘Cause you’re mine

You better stop the things you do

I ain’t lyin’, no I ain’t lyin’…

The Nina Simone hit was originally sung by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. However, it was Simone’s version which turned it into a signature song for the singer. Recorded complete with horns and strings, her interpretation of the lyrics turned it into a sultry love song that has thrilling lines and a soaring climax.

Those who aren’t familiar with the Nina Simone version of the song may have heard it in recent pop culture, as it is associated with the hit trilogy “Fifty Shades of Grey”. No matter how you stumbled upon the song, you are bound to be enthralled by its message which is about putting a spell and loving someone. The last couple of lines in particular are interesting, as it says “I don’t care if you don’t want me ‘cause I’m your, yours, yours anyhow”. Putting a spell on someone and claiming that person as yours, even if the feeling is unrequited, is definitely a situation that most listeners can relate to – thus the popularity of the song.


Janet Karro’s “Without You”

Now, how does “I Put a Spell on You” compare with Janet Karro’s “Without You”?  The track is part of Karro’s first spoken word album called “Lady Ocean” and this track in particular has the following first two lines:

Caught in prison of the time

Without your breath by my side…

Similar to all the other tracks in her Lady Ocean album, “Without You” is accompanied by mystifying music as she delivers line after line of the poem with passion. If I Put a Spell on You is about being caught up in the rapturous feeling of being in love with someone and claiming that person as yours, even if there’s a response to it or not, Without You has similar overtones. The poem is all about life having no meaning without the person who you’re reading the poem to. “If there is no you, if there is no you…” are the last phrases of the poem. Without you and if there is no you simply means that there’s almost no meaning to life without someone special to live it for. Just as it is when you have strong feelings for someone, there’s a sense of loss if you do not have that person by your side, which is the gist of both “Without You” and Nina Simone’s “If I Put a Spell On You”.