Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Fever

Originally recorded by Little Willie John (US #24/R&B #1 1956).
Other hit versions by Peggy Lee (US #8/UK #5 1958), Helen Shapiro (UK #38 1964), The McCoys (US #7/UK #44 1965), Madonna (DANCE #1/UK #6 1993).

From the wiki: “The idea for the song was presented to Otis Blackwell (‘All Shook Up‘, ‘Don’t Be Cruel’, ‘Great Balls of Fire’) 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.’

“Little Willie John reportedly disliked the song, but was persuaded to record it on March 1, 1956. His version was released in April 1956 and became a double-sided hit along with the top-ten R&B song ‘Letter from My Darling’. ‘Fever’ reached #1 for three weeks on the R&B Best Sellers chart. It also made the pop charts, peaking at #24 on the Billboard chart.

“In 1958, Peggy Lee recorded the first cover version of the song, which featured significantly rewritten lyrics composed by Lee herself without credit. These uncopyrighted lyrics (including the verses beginning ‘Romeo loved Juliet,’ and ‘Captain Smith and Pocahontas’) are now generally thought of as a standard part of the song, and have been included in most subsequent covers of ‘Fever’. Only the first and the fourth verse of the Little Willie John version were used, because Lee thought that the second and the third original verses were too risque for her musical tastes.

“Lee’s version peaked at #8 on the Billboard Hot 100. It became a signature song for Lee and was nominated for Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best Female Vocal Performance at the 1st Annual Grammy Awards held in 1959.

“British singer Helen Shapiro (‘It’s My Party‘) recorded a powerhouse version of ‘Fever’ in 1964. In late 1965, the McCoys released a version of the song ‘Fever’, which had a very similar beat and rhythm to their previous hit ‘Hang On Sloopy‘. Only two verses were used of the original.

“La Lupe, first Latin singer to sell out a concert event at Madison Square Garden, covered the song on her 1968 Queen of Latin Soul album. Her version became widely famous worldwide. In 1992, Madonna recorded a cover version of ‘Fever’ for her fifth studio album Erotica. She was going through the final stages of production on the song and suddenly started singing the lyrics to ‘Fever’ over another song she had been producing, ‘Goodbye to Innocence’. Madonna liked the way it sounded so much that she recorded it.”

Peggy Lee, “Fever” (1958):

Helen Shapiro, “Fever” (1964):

The McCoys, “Fever” (1965):

La Lupe, “Fever” (1968):

Madonna, “Fever” (1993):

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