In January 1955, Ray Charles managed to score a No. 1 on the US R&B chart with his Atlantic single I Got A Woman (released in December 1954), a catchy and energetic masterpiece widely considered to be the very first song in the soul genre. It blends the street-wise honesty and raw power of the blues with the floor-stomping rhythm and heavenly tunefulness of gospel, and hasn’t lost an ounce of its freshness over the many years that have passed since its first appearance on the airwaves.
The song’s inspiration stems from It Must Be Jesus by the Southern Tones, which Ray Charles heard quite frequently on the radio while touring across the US with his band in the summer of 1954. With a little help from trumpeter Renald Richard, Charles created I Got A Woman as a seductive mixture of exuberant secular lyrics sung on top of a religiously ecstatic tempo. Although it must have sounded a bit blasphemous to conservative ears in the early 1950s, this groundbreaking song soon became an instant favorite among music aficionados and led to the birth of a brand-new musical approach. It’s also interesting to note that the lyrics tell us about a woman with a heart of gold (instead of a gold digger), who not only provides much-needed tenderness but is also willing to help out her man if he’s in dire need of cash.
Elvis Presley recorded his hip-shaking version of I Got A Woman on January 10, 1956 in Nashville. The single did not achieve any chart success, although it kept popping up during Presley's shows throughout the 1950s, and even between 1969 and 1977.
The Beatles came up with two versions of the song for BBC radio. The first one was recorded on July 16, 1963 at the BBC Paris Theatre in London for the Pop Go The Beatles radio show. The second version is from March 31, 1964, and it was recorded at the Playhouse Theatre in London for the Saturday Club radio show.
Other notable covers of I Got A Woman were recorded by artists like...
The Everly Brothers
Booker T. & The M.G.’s
Sammy Davis Jr.