Fever All Through The Years

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

With those opening lines, accompanied by the sultry, up- tempo beats and snaps, Little Willie John’s “Fever” is instantly recognizable to ears of all ages.  Written by Eddie Cooley and Otis Blackwell, “Fever” was recorded in 1956 by up and coming R&B artist Little Willie John, just 19 years old at the time.  An instant success, “Fever” reached #1 on the R&B best sellers charts for three consecutive weeks, as well as peaking on Billboard’s pop charts.  As with any song with grand popularity, countless renditions/covers of “Fever” developed, displaying the song’s ability to not only transcend generations, but musical genres as well.  However, Little Willie John’s original lyrics, very sensual in nature, changed as continuous renditions of “Fever” were produced.

Jazz and Pop artist Peggy Lee was the first to cover Little Willie John’s “Fever.”  Recorded in 1958, Peggy Lee’s rendition featured many lyrical changes – keeping the 1st and 4th verses (as well as the chorus) from John’s original, Lee added lyrics painting popular literary/cinematic love stories from verse to verse:

Romeo loved Juliet
Juliet she felt the same
When he put his arms around her
He said, “Julie baby you’re my flame”

Thou givest fever, when we kisseth
Fever with thy flaming youth
Fever I’m on fire
Fever yeah I burn forsooth

Captain Smith and Pocahontas
Had a very mad affair
When her daddy tried to kill him
She said, “Daddy oh don’t you dare”

He gives me fever with his kisses
Fever when he holds me tight
Fever, I’m his missus
And daddy won’t you treat him right? ♫

It is Peggy Lee’s rendition of “Fever” that reignited her career, flaming “Fever” as her signature song

In more recent years, Little Willie John’s “Fever” has been covered by Queen B, herself, Beyonce.  Recorded originally September 2003 for her movie role in The Fighting Temptations , Beyonce’s “Fever” was re-recorded and released to accompany the release of her fragrance Heat in February of 2010.  Beyonce’s rendition adds more of the original raspy, sultry, sex-appealing sounds of Little Willie John, to her cover, in contrast to Peggy Lee’s version; Beyonce utilizes the background drum beats and emphasizes the snaps, found in the original song, as well as taking a slower approach to the tempo.

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