The origins of “Fever”
The idea for the song was presented to Otis Blackwell by an old friend, Eddie Cooley. Blackwell said: “Eddie Cooley was a friend of mine from New York and he called me up and said “Man, I got an idea for a song called “Fever”, but I can´t finish it. I had to write it under another name (John Davenport) because, at that time, I was still under contract to Joe Davis.”
Some famous songs he wrote/co-wrote are “Don’t Be Cruel,” “Great Balls of Fire,” and “All Shook Up.”
The original “Fever” by Little Willie John (1956)
“Fever” is a song written by Eddie Cooley and John Davenport and originally recorded by Little Willie John in 1956. In 1937, he was born William Edgar John in Arkansas. He was one of the first R&B singers, fairly popular in the late ’50s and early ’60s. His nickname came from his slight height – he was only 5’4″. After stabbing a man to death, he was jailed for manslaughter and died in prison when he was only 30 years old. The cause of his death is disputed – with reasons given ranging from a heart attack, pneumonia, asphyxiation, or as the result of beatings received in prison.
It was released as a double-sided hit along with the top-ten R&B song “Letter from My Darling”. The song reached number one for three weeks on the R&B Billboard Best Sellers Chart, and peaking at #24 at the Hot 100.
William Edward John (November 15, 1937 – May 26, 1968) was better known by his stage name Little Willie John. His best known for his popular music chart successes with songs such as, “All Arround the World” (1955), “Need Your Love So Bad” (1956) and “Fever” the same year (the latter covered in 1958 by Peggy Lee with more commercial success). Little Willie John reportedly disliked the song, but was persuaded to record it, on March 1, 1956, by King Records owner Syd Nathan and arranger and producer Henry Glover.
Grammy Nominated “Fever” by Peggy Lee (1958)
A few years later the song was famously covered by Peggy Lee who added a few lyrics she wrote herself (“Romeo loved Juliet”, “Captain Smith & Pocahontas”) and the song went into the Top 10 in US (Peaked at #08 in the Hot 100) becoming a signature song for Miss Lee. It also achieved #05 in UK Top 40 Singles chart.
She was born Norma Deloris Egstrom on May 26, 1920 in Jamestown, North Dakota. Her break came when she was discovered by bandleader Benny Goodman. Lee was a Blues-influenced Jazz singer and also a songwriter, with such hits as the songs from Disney’s Lady and the Tramp, in which she also sang and voiced a few characters.
The new verses now generally thought of as a standard part of the song, and have been included in most subsequent covers of “Fever”
Peggy Lee version was also nominated for “Record of the Year” at the 1959 Grammy Awards.
Thought it peaked higher on the Hot 100 it sold half what Little Willie John sold as it didn’t stay longer on the charts.
Elvis is back from the Army with “Fever” (1960)
Elvis Presley released a near identical version to Lee’s two years later for his 1960 album, Elvis is Back, after coming back from the army. It was not released as a single but it did became a famous version of the song too.
Naughty Girl Amanda Lear had “Fever” too
Amanda Lear (originally Tap\Tapp, born 18 November 1939 or 1946, in British Hong Kong) is a French singer, lyricist, composer, painter, TV presenter, actress and novelist.
Amanda Lear’s released in Europe a version of “Fever” as a single-only track in 1982. The singer did not enjoyed much commercial success at the time despite the media buzz and performances of “Fever” in a number of television shows, such as German “Ein Kessel Buntes” or Italian “Premiatissima”. She also did a video filmed in Paris to promote the single. However didn’t chart high, the track “Fever” later appeared in the tracklist of Lear’s “SUPER 20” compilation album in 1989.
Dance to Madonna’s “Fever” (1992/1993)
In 1992, Madonna recorded a cover version of “Fever” for her fifth studio album “Erotica”. She was in the studio putting down tracks for her the album and had just recorded a song called “Goodbye to Innocence”. She was going through the final stages of production on it when she suddenly started singing the lyrics to “Fever” over the top of it. Madonna liked the way it sounded so much that she recorded it.
“Fever” was released as the fourth single from Erotica Worldwide on March 22, 1993, by Maverick Records (her own company). It was released in the UK on 12″, CD single and as a limited edition 7″ picture disc. “Fever” became her highest debuting single from the “Erotica” album in the UK, entering at its peak position of #06 and comfortably selling over 85,000 copies, many of which were sold on the back of airplay alone as the video only premiered one month after the single release.
In the United States and Canada it was never officially released as a single and instead was the B-side to “Bad Girl”, the third single from “Erotica”. Although this song enjoyed good airplay on pop radio was #01 on the Billboard Dance Charts Club Plays.
In 1993 she presented the song live on her Girlie Show Tour in a very “Erotica” dance using clips of the song on the show to be exposed on the news and promote the Tour.
Despite not being one of Madonna most successful singles of Madonna career (Madonna have 33 singles peaking Top 3 in UK) it was a considerable hit having heavy rotation on the radio. The video was featured on a DVD collection released in 1999 but the song missed Madonna’s greatest hits collections: GHV2 (2002) and Celebration (2009). On the Celebration DVD release are included 47 Madonna video’s but “Fever” is not one of them.
Glamorous Girl “Fever” by Beyonce (2003/2010)
“Fever” was re-recorded by Beyoncé Knowles on two different occasions. Knowles first recorded her version of “Fever” on September 9, 2003 for her film “The Fighting Temptations”. Following the release of her first fragrance “Heat” (2010), she recorded “Fever” again and officially released it in early February 2010 in the United States as well as the United Kingdom. It was included on her “Heat” EP (2011). The song failed to chart in the Top 100 in both 2003 and 2010.
After releasing her first fragrance Heat, Knowles re-recorded her version of “Fever” as promotion for the fragrance, using the song in advertisements for the fragrance. The re-recorded 2010 version of the song was later released for digital-download on iTunes on February 8, 2010. Ed Gonzalez of Slant Magazine wrote: “The seductive iciness of Peggy Lee’s “Fever” is successfully transplanted with a gumbo sound and sexy Southern comfort.”
The commercial for the fragrance found controversy in the UK with UK’s Advertising Standards Authority. The commercial was banned from the country’s daytime TV rotation due to its “sexy imagery” and was only shown after 7:30 in the afternoon. The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority commented on the ban decision stating “We considered that Beyoncé’s body movements and the camera’s prolonged focus on shots of her dress slipping away to partially expose her breasts created a sexually provocative ad that was unsuitable to be seen by young children.”
Knowles, herself, responded to the commercial’s ban jokingly stating: “Where’s the wind coming from? It started out only [to stay cool], and then it kind of created this effect with my hair. You can only imagine, the show is two and a half hours. It’s really, really warm onstage.”
Hundreds Different “Fever”s
Along the years hundreds of other artists recorded or sang “Fever” live. Among them you can easily find on “You Tube” Ella Fitzgerald, Ann Margret, Sarah Vaughan, James Brown, Joe Cocker, Tom Jones, The McCoy, Chuck Brown & Eva Cassidi, The Doors, Celine Dion, Michael Bublé, Ray Charles & Natalie Cole, Helen Saphiro, Boney M, Diana Krall, The Cramps, Christina Aguilera and even The Muppets.
On this mix that I found on “You Tube” you have “Fever” by Celine Dion, A Fine Frenzy, Michael Bublé, Helen Shapiro, Beyoncé, Meiko, Peggy Lee, Superpitcher, Madonna, Amanda Lear, Elvis Presley, Daniel Ash, Boney M, Ray Charles & Norah Jones, Patti Drew.
Enjoy your favorite “Fever”!