Halloween Magic with Two Great Songs
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Create Halloween Magic With Two Enchanting Songs!

Anyone who knows me well and has been to my home knows that I LOVE holidays, and I LOVE to decorate for them. Halloween is no exception! My voice students have learned to expect seasonal and holiday decorations with every turn of the calendar. So, too, I love to change up the music I listen to, and even the songs I assign my voice classes at the college, or my private singing students at my home studio. It’s already mid-October, so now is the perfect time to start learning some Halloween-inspired songs!

At my home there are now cute pumpkins, ghosts, and witches everywhere. But no scary or gory decorations allowed! I am, after all, a Romantic. Its all nostalgic and fun. Fall leaves (pretty fake ones, since I live in southern California) and orange lights give a lovely autumnal glow, and vintage Halloween cards and figurines abound. This fondness for bygone days influences my music choices as well…

2 Halloween Songs that Swing and Sway

There is no better source for fantastic American music than The Great American Songbook. Although not an actual book per se, this is a treasure trove of wonderful, timeless songs of 20th Century American show music, jazz and popular standards. It is a priceless collection by world-famous composers that has stood the test of time to this day. You could spend a lifetime exploring and learning the fantastic songs of this genre! See my post: Fall in Love With the Great American Songbook!

Let’s look at my first Halloween song choice— for a swingin’ Halloween!

“Witchcraft”

Written by Broadway, Jazz and Hollywood composer Cy Coleman in 1957, with lyrics by Carolyn Leigh, ”Witchcraft” was first released as a single by Frank Sinatra.  His version is the best known and most popular. It reached number six in the U.S., spending sixteen weeks on the Billboard charts.

“Witchcraft” has been recorded by a star-studded lineup of artists, including Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, and Bing Crosby, just to name a few!  The song in various forms has also been used in a number of Hollywood movies. Frank Sinatra’s recording of “Witchcraft” was nominated for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Male Pop Vocal Performance.  Nelson Riddle’s evocative arrangement was also nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Arrangement.  At the ceremony, the first-ever Grammy Awards, “Witchcraft” was also performed live by the great jazz vocalist, Peggy Lee.

Musical lore has it that composer Cy Coleman had sent a demo over to Voyle Gilmore, Frank Sinatra’s producer at Capitol Records.  In 1957, Sinatra was filming the movie musical, Pal Joey at the time with actresses Rita Hayworth and Kim Novak. Gilmore played the demo of “Witchcraft” and Frank’s manager shook his head “no”. But Frank said, “Play it again”, and despite his manager’s protestations, said “This is the song I want to record.”

Much later, long after the song had become a hit, Coleman and Leigh wrote an additional opening verse for “Witchcraft” for a TV show.   This is the “Shades of old Lucretia Borgia” intro, which I personally love, and I think really sets up the theme for the “Witchcraft” refrain.  It gives the song a slightly spooky feel, highlighting the magical enchantment of falling under the spell of love!  Unfortunately, not many singers record the intro.  Frank Sinatra did another recording in 1963, and even recorded a duet with Anita Baker in 1993, but the ’57 “Witchcraft” (without the intro) stands as the real Sinatra classic.  Take a listen…

I’ll include all the lyrics, including the intro, here:

Shades of old Lucretia Borgia!
There’s a devil in you tonight,
’N’ although my mind adores ya,
My head says
It ain’t right
Right to let you make advances, oh, no!
Under normal circumstances, I’d go but oh!

Those fingers in my hair
That sly come-hither stare
That strips my conscience bare
It’s witchcraft
And I’ve got no defense for it
The heat is too intense for it
What good would common sense for it do?
‘Cause it’s witchcraft
Wicked witchcraft
And although, I know, it’s strictly taboo
When you arouse the need in me
My heart says yes indeed in me
Proceed with what you’re leading me to
It’s such an ancient pitch
But one I wouldn’t switch
‘Cause there’s no nicer witch than you
‘Cause it’s witchcraft
That crazy witchcraft
And…

And when you’re done swingin’, here’s a second enduring standard to make you sway…

“Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered”

Written by the stellar Broadway team of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart,  “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” debuted in the 1940 musical Pal Joey.  It was sung by Vivienne Segal in the show and on her 1950 hit record.  In the Broadway show, the song reflects her character Vera Simpson’s mixed feelings about falling for a heel (played by Gene Kelly) that she was going to use just for a fling, but who is now using her for her money.  In the 1957 Hollywood version of Pal Joey, “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” is performed by Rita Hayworth (dubbed by Jo Ann Greer), and Joey is played by Frank Sinatra.

“Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” has been recorded by a pantheon of artists throughout the decades, including Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Barbara Streisand and Linda Ronstadt.  One of my favorite recordings has always been the one by Doris Day, who in my opinion, has often been underrated as a singer.  Her subtle inflections and warm vocal tone are always a pleasure to listen to.  Close your eyes and enjoy…

Here are the complete lyrics, below:

After one whole quart of brandy
Like a daisy I awake
With no Bromo Seltzer handy
I don’t even shake
Men are not a new sensation;
I’ve done pretty well, I think
But this half-pint imitation
Put me on the blink

I’m wild again
Beguiled again
A simpering, whimpering child again
Bewitched, bothered and bewildered am I

Couldn’t sleep
And wouldn’t sleep
Until I could sleep where I shouldn’t sleep
Bewitched, bothered and bewildered am I

Lost my heart but what of it?
My mistake, I agree
He’s a laugh, but I love it
Because the laugh’s on me

A pill he is
But still he is
All mine and I’ll keep him until he is
Bewitched, bothered and bewildered
Like me

Seen a lot
I mean I lot
But now I’m like sweet seventeen a lot
Bewitched, bothered and bewildered am I

I’ll sing to him
Each spring to him
And worship the trousers that cling to him
Bewitched, bothered and bewildered am I

When he talks he is seeking
Words to get off his chest
Horizontally speaking
He’s at his very best

Vexed again
Perplexed again
Thank God I can be over-sexed again
Bewitched, bothered and bewildered am I

 

Aren’t these two songs wonderful?  They just don’t write music like this anymore!  When was the last time you came out of a recent Broadway show humming anything that you heard in the theater?  The songs may have worked in the dramatic context of the play, but they just aren’t songs you’d want to listen to again and again, or that could stand the test of time.  Where are the great melodies and the timeless lyrics today?
I’m so glad that the coming of Halloween gave me an excuse to think of songs that have a little bit of extra magic for the season.  Whether you’re singing in a band and need to set some Halloween mood for your latest gig, or you just want to learn some great songs to add to your repertoire, “Witchcraft” and “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” will cast a spell over you and your listeners…

Happy Halloween!

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