This song was written by Horace Ott, Bennie Benjamin and Sol Marcus. Benjamin and Marcus were a songwriting team that had been working together since the '40s; their compositions include "Lonely Man" by Elvis Presley and "Fabulous Character" by Sarah Vaughan. Ott is an arranger who worked on tracks for Nat King Cole and Aretha Franklin, and later gave life to most of the Village People's material - you can thank him for those horn lines on "Y.M.C.A."
Ott started writing the song after getting in a heated argument with Gloria Caldwell, whom he had recently married. Sitting down at the piano, he expressed in song how he was well intentioned, but misunderstood by his wife - a sentiment many married men could relate to.
Gloria Caldwell is listed on the credit instead of Ott because of contractual issues. She learned to understand him: the couple stayed together.
Nina Simone was the first to record this song, releasing an orchestrated, downtempo rendition on her 1964 album Broadway-Blues-Ballads that nicked the US chart at #131. The best-known version is by The Animals, who reworked it into a rock song. Eric Burdon recalled in Rolling Stone magazine, "It was never considered pop material, but it somehow got passed on to us and we fell in love with it immediately."
In our 2010 interview with Eric Burdon, he said: "I've really been misunderstood. By my mom, my dad, school teachers, a couple of the women that I married. I've been misunderstood all of my life."
In 2013, Eric Burdon recorded a new version of this song with Jenny Lewis for the HBO TV series True Blood. "When I was asked to record a new version of 'Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood' for the new season with Jenny Lewis, I had to bite," Burdon said of recording the song for the vampire drama. The song was included on Volume 4 of the show's soundtrack.
Other well-known versions include covers by:
Joe Cocker, who covered this on his 1969 debut album, With a Little Help from My Friends. His version was played over the ending credits of the 2004 film Layer Cake.
Disco group Santa Esmeralda's 1977 dance version, which incorporated flamenco, salsa, and other Latin rhythm and ornamentation elements. Released as a single it reached #15 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song's instrumental passage was later used by Quentin Tarantino during the duel between The Bride and O-Ren Ishii in his 2003 movie Kill Bill: Volume 1
Lana Del Rey, who covered this for her 2015 Honeymoon album. Her version is in the vein of Nina Simone's jazz original but also uses The Animals organ sound. Del Rey had previous covered another Nina Simone song "The Other Woman" for her Ultraviolence album. The "Video Games" singer told NME she is drawn to Simone's "melodies and words." "Personality-wise we're quite different," she added. "We may have had some of the same issues, but I picked that song simply because it resonated with me."