Saturday, November 5, 2016

Music Reviews: Fever

"Fever" is a Blues/R&B song which was written by the African-American singers/songwriters Eddie Cooley and Otis Blackwell. Both men had more success in the music business writing songs for other people than they did as performers under their own names. Blackwell in particular was a relatively unheralded early songwriter of many rock-n-roll hits. Elvis Presley considered Blackwell to be a favorite songwriter. Some of the Blackwell written Presley hits include such songs as "All Shook Up", "Don't Be Cruel",  and "Return to Sender". Blackwell also co-wrote "Great Balls of Fire" for Jerry Lee Lewis. "Fever" first was a hit for teen African-American singer Little Willie John in 1956. Afterwards, as was often the practice in those days and today, it was covered to even greater acclaim by Euro-American singer Peggy Lee. Lee's sultry voiced version turned up the sex appeal although ironically Lee dropped some of the original lyrics because they were thought to be too risque for the white market. Much as would latter happen with Aretha Franklin's version of Otis Redding's "Respect", most people probably know Lee's version of the song instead of Little Willie John's. There have been many different singers who have done versions of the song including Madonna, La Lupe, Beyonce and Buddy Guy. I like Little Willie John's version best although Buddy Guy's overwrought James Brown approved take on the song is certainly worthwhile listening. All of the good versions of the song, regardless of who is interpreting it, capture the utterly irrational and insistent nature of love and lust. People do things that they otherwise wouldn't do and may later regret under those influences. When that part of our brain is fully engaged insanity or fever may be the best way of describing the experience. Little Willie John was from Detroit. Despite only standing 5'4" (hence the nickname) Little Willie John was a pugnacious fellow with a quick temper who rarely backed down from fights. He died at age 30 in prison in the late sixties where he was serving time on manslaughter charges. A drunk 6'2 "fan" punched Little Willie John in the mouth. Little Willie retaliated by stabbing his assailant to death.

Little Willie John was an influence on James Brown among other singers. As with Peggy Lee, Little Willie John's song "All Around the World" is likely better known as Little Milton's "Grits Ain't Groceries".

Little Willie John

You never know how much I love you
Never know how much I care
When you put your arms around me
I get a feeling that's so hard to bear
You give me fever

When you kiss me
Fever when you hold me tight
Fever (fever, burn through) in the morning
And fever all through the night

Listen to me, baby
Hear every word I say
No one could love you the way I do
'Cause they don't know how to love you my way
You give me fever

Bless my soul, I love you
Take this heart away
Take these arms I'll never use
And just believe in what my lips have to say
You give me fever

Sun lights up the daytime
Moon lights up the night
My eyes light up when you call my name
'Cause I know you're gonna treat me right
You give me fever

Peggy Lee

Buddy Guy

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