Magic and using magical powers is something that goes back to the dawn of time. For some, it was providing answers, and for others, it was for predicting the future. And still, for others, it was a way of getting help from somewhere otherworldly.
It could be supplied in a variety of forms, but it always has a strange feeling to it. It is manifested in various traditions throughout the world. You only have to look at Stonehenge in the UK. Built between 5000-2500 BC, it is easy to understand the power and influence that magic can have.
Therefore, it is not surprising then that songwriters have written songs about magic. Whether you believe in it or you think it’s a load of old hocus pocus is not important. It has been the inspiration for some great music for many years. And speaking of hocus pocus, let’s start our journey with…
- Hocus Pocus – Focus
- A Kind Of Magic – Queen
- Houdini – Kate Bush
- Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic – The Police
- Black Magic Woman – Fleetwood Mac
- That Old Black Magic – Frank Sinatra
- Magic Moments – Perry Como
- Got My Mojo Working – Muddy Waters
- Love Potion Number Nine (Stereo Version) – The Searchers
- Magic Carpet Ride – Steppenwolf
- Magic – Pilot
- Magic Bus (Live) – The Who
- Rhiannon – Fleetwood Mac
- Magical Mystery Tour – The Beatles
- Puff, The Magic Dragon – Peter, Paul, and Mary
- Newgrange – The Magical Ring – Clannad
- I Put A Spell On You – Nina Simone
- Looking for Music With Meaning?
- Songs About Magic – Final Thoughts
Hocus Pocus – Focus
Not a bad place to start is with this, from what some might call a ‘strange’ band from Holland. I say strange because very little that Focus did was what you might call “mainstream.” They moved the boundaries of music, not once as some bands did, but many times.
They were formed in Amsterdam in 1969 by Thijs Van Leer, the keyboard player, flutist, and vocalist. And just about anything else he could get his hands on. The band also included Jan Akkerman on guitar.
This is one of their strange tracks that included great flute playing, stunning guitar, brilliant jazz-inspired drumming, and… yodeling. Don’t ask.
A Kind Of Magic – Queen
Was Queen overrated or underrated? There is a big discussion about that. Certainly, their performance at Live Aid, and the ‘Magic’ tour that followed, brought us all to our feet in admiration. But, they were often criticized in the UK for padding out albums with irrelevant and pointless tracks.
It was often thought that they were brilliant at what they did. And they were. But they didn’t do enough of it. This track, though, does not fall into that category. It was written by drummer Roger Taylor, specifically for the soundtrack of the film “The Highlander.”
Not their first soundtrack, of course, as they had already written the music for “Flash Gordon.” This song became a near-permanent fixture in their stage show. And is one of Queen’s most magical songs.
Houdini – Kate Bush
In the “strange to some people” stakes, not far behind Focus, came Kate Bush. A genius personified with her great songs and theatrical, ballet-inspired stage shows. She was an enigma to some.
It is not surprising that she included some songs with magical influences in her work. Therefore, it was never a surprise that she wrote this song about one of the masters of illusion, Harry Houdini.
The Magic of Love
From her album, The Dreaming, this was written as if she was Houdini’s wife, Bess. There are a couple of interesting supposed historical references cleverly included in the song.
“With a Kiss, I will pass The Key” is a direct response to the idea that Bess passed him the key to the handcuffs using her tongue. She gave it to him when she kissed him good luck.
And, of course, he was famously known to have said if there is an afterlife that, he would find a way to get back. Kate includes a reference to a seance in the lyrics. He said to Bess he would use the code “Rosabella believe” when he contacted her, so she would know it was him.
Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic – The Police
The Police were one of the biggest acts of the 80s. Some people regard them as one of the first real stadium bands. They had a very happy knack of taking any subject matter for a song and making it sound happy.
This song was included on their fourth album, Ghost In The Machine, released in 1981. It was the second single taken from that album. Although it was older than that, written as early in their career as 1976 when they weren’t even called “The Police.”
It was recorded at Sir George Martin’s Air Studios in Montserrat. Most songs about magic and magical things can have a slightly eerie feel to them. But this is pure Police-like fun.
Black Magic Woman – Fleetwood Mac
I know what you are thinking. Why haven’t you included the Santana version of this timeless classic? That is, of course, outstanding in every way. But, I wanted to include the original by the inimitable Peter Green.
He wrote the song, and it was released by Fleetwood Mac in 1968. During the 60s, influenced and encouraged by John Mayall, they were the best blues band in the UK. They would have gone on to greater things except for incidents with the members. But that’s another story.
This is a reminder of how good “Greenie” was. They returned with great success in a different set of clothes later. But this could have been one of their high points.
That Old Black Magic – Frank Sinatra
Let’s jump in the DeLorean and go back in time a bit. Written in 1942 by Harold Arlen with lyrics by Johnny Mercer. The lyrics, it is thought, were allegedly written about Judy Garland, and she was the first to record it.
Sinatra recorded it and re-recorded it in 1961, which is the version by him we know today. It has had some interesting cover versions over the years, including Bing Crosby, even Rod Stewart, and Bob Dylan.
Magic Moments – Perry Como
This was a song from my youth. My mother had a ‘thing’ for Perry Como and this track, amongst others, was rarely off of our ‘radiogram.’
A nice tune expertly crooned and a song that has no mysteries or hidden meanings. Just someone reminiscing about magical moments spent with a special person.
Got My Mojo Working – Muddy Waters
Muddy Waters, one of the blues greats and an inspiration to most people, recorded this. It has since been covered by endless numbers of people.
It was first recorded in 1956 by Ann Cole, an R&B singer. Waters did it the year after with some changes in the lyrics and a different style. It was a song that he included in the vast majority of his performances. His 1960 “live” version is still revered as one of the greatest blues tracks of all time.
Why is it included here?
According to African American traditions, a mojo is a bag containing potions and magic spells carried by those purveyors of voodoo and witchcraft. It was claimed that it could control people. Didn’t work for Muddy as he sings, “I’ve got my mojo working, but it just won’t work on you.”
Love Potion Number Nine (Stereo Version) – The Searchers
It wasn’t all Beatles in the early 60s in the UK. Well, almost, but not all. This was another of those bands from Liverpool. They had a string of successful songs from the early to mid-60s, and this was taken from their album, Meet the Searchers, from 1964.
A funny little tune that tells the tale of a man who goes to see a gypsy to buy a love potion. As a result, it’s more of a song about love and magic than Black Magic. A New Wave of Heavy Metal Band, the Tygers of Pang Tang, also did a great ‘rock’ version of the track, if that is more your style.
Magic Carpet Ride – Steppenwolf
This Canadian-American band was one of the first “bad boys” of rock. This was a single released in 1968 that became their most successful record. Even doing better than their earlier release of “Born To Be Wild,” chart-wise.
It had some, shall we say, “interesting” connotations applied to it over the years. But, it remains a classic rock song about magic for the period, if a little dated today.
Magic – Pilot
This song came at a time when music was veering in two different directions. In some cases, bands like Led Zeppelin in the early 70s took it one way. They were followed, of course, by others. But, some still craved the traditional 3-minute ‘pop’ song. And that is what this song was.
Pilot was a Scottish band who wrote the song for their first album. The magic they refer to is the sunrise over Edinburgh Castle. Those that may have seen it know it can be spectacular.
The success of the Bay City Rollers in the early 70s turned people’s eyes to Scotland. Much as they had in the early 60s to Liverpool. Pilot was one of the results of that.
Magic Bus (Live) – The Who
Not the most creative of The Who’s work, John Entwhistle hated playing it, probably because the bass line was all on one note for the whole song. Not ‘thunder fingers’ style at all. Although, it did have an interesting “Bo Diddley-Esque” type rhythm going on.
It tells the story of a man who travels to see his girlfriend on the bus each day and believes it has magical powers. He tries to buy it from the driver. The driver initially says no but then sells it to him. Don’t know what the bus company thought about the deal.
Not Townshend’s greatest work lyrically, it was released in 1968 seemingly as an afterthought, having been written a few years before. It had only minor success but was always well received in their live stage shows.
Rhiannon – Fleetwood Mac
After the personnel debacles of the late 60s, Fleetwood Mac returned with a bang in the mid-70s. And this song was very much at the forefront of the ‘new’ image and philosophy that the band imbued.
It could be argued that any band with Stevie Nicks in might be ‘different.’ Dressed in long black robes with what looked like a witch’s hat, it did look a little strange. It was a mysterious, enigmatic image the band and Stevie encouraged.
The central figure of “Rhiannon” was a mythical goddess who, in a book by Mary Leader, “Triad,” possesses a young girl. Deep and dark, it was brilliant and eerie at the same time. A masterpiece of production creates the feeling to go along with the subject matter. Magic on another level.
Magical Mystery Tour – The Beatles
If you were wondering where they were on this list, here they are. There isn’t a list of songs on any subject that won’t include something from the Beatles.
This was the first project after Sergeant Pepper and rings clearly with their euphoria over that album. The feeling of fun is expectant and very real, and you can hear it in the music.
From The Film Of The Same Name
This was the title track of their 1967 film, “The Magical Mystery Tour,” which wasn’t received with gushing praise in some quarters, it is fair to say. I don’t suppose they were unduly worried.
After Revolver, The White Album, and Sergeant Pepper, there was nothing more to be said about how good they were. Those albums said all that needed to be said.
Off To The Seaside
It is a throwback idea and was inspired by days gone by when families and sometimes whole villages went on buses to the seaside. “Charabanc trips” they were known as.
It was a common site in Liverpool in the 50s as the buses went off to the lights in Blackpool. For children and even some adults, it was a ‘magical’ trip, even if sometimes it only was for the day.
Puff, The Magic Dragon – Peter, Paul, and Mary
A children’s song about magic with a tragic story woven into it. It tells about a ‘magic’ dragon who is the friend of a little boy, Jackie Paper.
The magical Puff is ageless, but Jackie grows older, and his interest in his magical friend ceases. He leaves his childhood and poor Puff behind, who is left alone and by himself.
The idea for the story came from Leonard Lipton, who wrote the poem in 1959. That provided the basis for the lyrics to the song. They were finished off by Peter Yarrow of the trio.
A Nice Side Story
When the song had become an enormous success, Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul, and Mary, sought out Leonard Lipton. He paid him royalties for his part in writing the song, which he still receives. You don’t often get that level of honesty in the music industry. Usually, it’s the other way round.
A children’s version of the meaning of magic in a song, albeit in a somewhat tragic way.
Newgrange – The Magical Ring – Clannad
As we are getting closer to the end of our list of songs about magic, let’s pull out some real class. This album, The Magical Ring, was released in 1983. That was long before we had all been mesmerized by Peter Jackson’s interpretation of JR Tolkien’s masterpiece.
But, he wasn’t the only writer who found the ring magical. This by Irish group Clannad, is a song that inspires a range of emotions. Close your eyes, and you can see Stonehenge thousands of years ago or other places just like it.
The mood of the music captures the feeling of magic and strange happenings perfectly. The whole album was an absolute masterpiece.
I Put A Spell On You – Nina Simone
So, we come to the end of a list of fantastic music about magic. It is always difficult to know what to finish these lists with. It has to be special, and this song and performance certainly are.
If I am honest, I was going to include the Alan Price recording of this track. His version is very good, but Nina Simone’s is epic.
It was written by Screaming Jay Hawkins and has been covered by dozens of people. But, it is Nina’s version released from the album of the same name from 1965 that is the version to listen to.
An Enchanting Voice
Ms. Simone was, of course, a great jazz singer, and she gives her version the full treatment. She turns the song powerfully into a woman getting revenge on her dishonest and untrustworthy man. And she does this by putting a spell on him, “because you’re mine.”
Something special to finish with? I think so. A great song, and a classy singer giving a great performance.
Looking for Music With Meaning?
We can help with that. Have a look at our takes on the Best Songs about Fighting, the Best Songs About Walking, the Best Songs About Friendship, the Best Songs About Loneliness, the Best Songs About Heroes, and the Best Songs about Friday for more amazing song selections.
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Songs About Magic – Final Thoughts
Seventeen songs and some real ‘magic’ amongst them – pardon the pun. I have tried to cross over genres in an attempt to show there are different ways of seeing magic. And there are. But, the ones that strike home the most are the songs that have that deep, dark undercurrent of the unknown.
It takes great songwriters to try to create that. Additionally, it takes great producers to push the creation a bit further with the recording. And, it takes great singers to capture and portray that feeling and bring it to life. I guess you could say we have been on a magical journey.
Until next time, happy listening.