Happy 50th: Sammy Davis, Jr., When the Feeling Hits You

Friday, January 30, 2015
Happy 50th: Sammy Davis, Jr., When the Feeling Hits You

50 years ago today, Sammy Davis, Jr. released an album which found him collaborating with Sam Butera and the Witnesses, a collaboration which resulted in one of the strongest full-length efforts in Davis’s discography.

When the Feeling Hits You came at a time in Davis’s career when he was pretty darned prolific: it was one of four albums he released during the course of 1965, remarkably enough, with the others being If I Ruled the World, The Nat King Cole Songbook, and Sammy’s Back on Broadway, but despite delivering so much work in so short a time, he wasn’t making much headway on the singles charts. In fact, it had been 10 years since his last top-10 hit (“Something Got to Give,” in 1955), which is kind of surprising when you consider how familiar a face he’d become in Hollywood, having spent most of his time since the start of the ‘60s on the silver screen, appearing in “Ocean’s 11,” “Sergeants 3,” “Convicts 4,” “Robin and the 7 Hoods,” and several other films that didn’t have numbers in their titles.

When the Feeling Hits You may not have changed Davis’s singles status quo, but listening to it now, there’s an even bigger disappointment surrounding it: that it was the only time Davis did an album with Butera and his Witnesses. Butera brought to the table the considerable experience he’d accrued from having worked with Louis Prima and Keely Smith, and by bringing that same sort of sound and energy to Davis’s material, the performances proved to be uniformly outstanding, starting with the title track and continuing through Davis’s takes on such classics as “There Will Never Be Another You,” “Cry Me a River,” “Do Nothin’ ‘Till You Hear from Me,” and “These Foolish Things.”

Since his death, many younger pop culture enthusiasts have come to think of Sammy Davis, Jr. less for the work that he did on his own and more for his association with the Rat Pack. That’s a situation that should be remedied, and giving When the Feeling Hits You a spin is a good way to get started.