My Top 10 Halloween Songs

Happy Halloween, everyone!!!

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Courtesy of Pinterest & ehomedecors.com (original source unknown)

You know for me it is all about the music, so I could not let this holiday pass without honoring it with my favorite songs (in no particular order), which are guaranteed to put you in a  Halloween mood.

1.  “I Put A Spell On You” (1956, written by Jalacy “Screamin’ Jay” Hawkins).

 

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(Original source unknown)

The songwriter’s own version from 1956 is a powerful number all on its own.  But, there are several unbelievably intense & stunning covers you cannot miss by Nina Simone (1965), Annie Lennox (2014), Them featuring Van Morrison (1966), Creedence Clearwater Revival (1968), Chaka Khan (2019) and of course, Winifred Sanderson a/k/a  Bette Midler (1993) from the film “Hocus Pocus”.

2.  “Sympathy for the Devil” – The Rolling Stones (1968, written by Mick Jagger & Keith Richards).

Rolling Stones

(Original source unknown)

From the opening beats of the congas combined with Jagger’s first scream, the Stones pull you into this masterpiece and refuse to let you go.  And honestly, you would not want to leave anyway.  There are several covers out there by respectable artists, but compared to the original they really are not even worth mentioning.

3.  “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” – The Charlie Daniels Band (1979, written by the Charlie Daniels Band). 

charlie daniels

(Original source unknown)

A fantastically fun song.  But how can a song about the devil be fun, you ask?  Just include a contest with a human, a ,smoking hot fiddle player and lyrics like “Chicken in a bread pan pickin’ out dough, Granny, does your dog bite? No child, no!” and you are all set.  Personal note:  This song is featured in one of my favorite episodes of “The Drew Carey Show” (season 2, episode 5:  “The Devil, You Say”) guest starring Grant Shaud (“Murphy Brown’s” Miles Silverberg) convinced he is the prince of darkness in the living flesh.  Watch it if you can find it.  I couldn’t. 

4.  “Werewolves of London” – Warren Zevon (1978, written by Warren Zevon, LeRoy Marinell & Waddy Wachtel).

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(Original source unknown)

Zevon referred to this as a novelty song, and if that is so, it is undoubtedly one of the best of all time.  How could it not be with an opening line like “I saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand”.  Wouldn’t that make a great costume???!!!  Adam Sandler did a more than respectable cover of this song on the 2004 Zevon tribute album, “Eat Every Sandwich”.  And you thought Sandler only sang about Hanukah!!!

5.  “Spooky” –Atlanta Rhythm Section (1979, written by Mike Shapiro and Harry Middlebrooks Jr,)

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(Original source unknown)

I adored this band from the first time I heard “So Into You” but fell in L-O-V-E with them thanks to “Imaginary Lover“.  It still makes me swoon.  But I digress.  Two members of the group, Dean Daughtry and James B. Cobb, Jr-who were previously members of the band which first recorded this song, the Classics IV-decided to record another version with their new group.  Two other versions you cannot miss are by Joan Osborne   (1998) and Dusty Springfield (1970).

6.  “Season of the Witch” – Donovan (1966, written by Donovan and Shawn Phillips).

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(Original source unknown)

I am not a fan of folk Donavan, but psychedelic rock Donavan is a different story.  The music is undeniably from the late 1960’s but his vocals transcend the era.  There is some weight and a whole lot of feeling behind them that keeps up with the music perfectly so as not to be outdone.  If you can forgive the one dated reference to beatniks, you can enjoy this song anytime, but it is perfect for this time of year.  Al Kooper & Stephen Stills’ cover is a guitar & brass spin on the original and is absolutely worth a listen.  And if you are planning to see the movie “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark”  you will hear a new version of the song by Lana Del Ray which is very well done.

7.  “Black Magic Woman” – Fleetwood Mac (1968, written by Peter Green).

Peter Green

(Original source unknown)

If you are a fan of this band you know they formed years before Lindsay Buckingham & Stevie Nicks joined them.  Peter Green was one of the founding members of the group  and wrote and recorded this song with them in 1968.  Prior to Fleetwood Mac he was a member of John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, joining them to fill the void left by Eric Clapton’s departure.  This song became more famous when it was covered by  Santana  in 1970 which featured Gregg Rolie on vocals.  He went on to join Journey, leading to him being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame with each band.

8.  “Superstition” – Stevie Wonder (1972, written by Stevie Wonder).

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(Original source unknown)

The lyrics may evoke fear and trepidation, but the music is nothing but mesmerizing, from the opening drum beats to the synthesizer bass to the tenor sax and more.  It is a banquet of sounds that, as the line goes, keeps you in a daydream.   For an equally funky version, give Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble’s version from 1986 a listen.  It does not disappoint.  Wonder even participated in the video for Vaughn’s version by appearing at the end and singing a line from the song……..with a black cat in his arms.  Fabulous.

9.  “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” – Denmark & Winter  (2016, written by Buck Dharma).

denmark

(Original source unknown)

Of course, Blue Oyster Cult’s 1976 original version is a classic, and that was years before the SNL cowbell skit.  But the indie band’s evocative stripped down version with its slower pace brings this song to a whole new level of intensity and beauty.

10.   Monster Mash” – Bobby “Boris” Pickett and the Crypt-Kickers (1962, written by Bobby Pickett & Lenny Capizzi). 

MonsterMash

(Original source unknown)

How can this not be on the list???  It is the embodiment of the holiday AND it has Darlene Love on backing vocals!!!  I grew up listening to this song every Halloween season thanks to my mom.  She would play it over and over again while we danced around the living room.  That is how I learned you are never too old for this holiday.  Two cover versions that are almost as popular as the original are by Vincent Price (1977) and Alvin & the Chipmunks ( 1994).     

Honorable mention:  “Psycho Killer” – The Talking Heads (1977, written by the Talking Heads).

Once the little hairs on the back of your neck relax after taking in the title of this song, the rest of your body becomes entranced by the remarkable baseline underscoring Byrne’s vocals in English and French punctuated by his fa-fa-fa’s.  Just genius.

What songs do you love for Halloween?

I hope your holiday is filled with more treats than tricks!!!

i got a rock.jpg(Courtesy of Charles M. Schulz/United Feature Syndicate)   

I do not own the rights to anything.  I am just sharing some things that I love with you  🙂

Until next time, happy listening!!!

 

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Looking Back, Looking Forward

Hello again.  Hope you all had a great summer.  Fall is almost here.  Yay!!!

Sorry for the unplanned/unannounced hiatus.  It has been a rough summer (year actually) for me personally & professionally, and it has all taken a toll on my creativity.  When I am in that place, I do a lot of reflecting.  The older I get, that seems more normal than looking ahead.  I am trying desperately to change that, but it is so very difficult.

I am looking forward to reawakening myself with the upcoming change of season we are about to begin.  Like the quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald goes, “Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall”.  I feel reborn when the weather cools and the leaves change.  This year I need a fresh start more than ever.

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The summer was hot and humid which was to be expected.  It was also full of loss which was not.  Kate Spade & Anthony Bourdain losing their battle with depression was not only heartbreaking, but terrifying to anyone who suffers from that same disease (read:  me, although I prefer not to discuss this battle publicly).  I always hoped with more love and more success in my life I would feel more stable in fighting this demon.  But their stories only prove how much I have been kidding myself about this illness.  A few years ago I lost a dear family friend to the same battle.  We grew up together and I never knew what he was going through.  It scared me so much I had to stop looking at my fear because I was afraid if I didn’t, I was going to get lost in it and never come back.  Spade & Bourdain’s deaths so close together has made it impossible to look away.  And that is incredibly scary, too.  That is my present.

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Kate Spade & Anthony Bourdain (original sources unknown).

The reflecting started with the death of one of my childhood heroes, legendary disc jockey Dan Ingram.  One of the best things about growing up in New York was listening to music radio WABC-77.  All of the DJ’s were phenomenal (especially Harry Harrison & Ron Lundy), but Ingram’s time slot of 2PM-6PM was the one I could listen to almost all the way through, and I fell head over heels in love with his voice.  It was deep yet elegant, sharp yet comforting and funny and irreverent as hell.  He was the reason I fell in love with both voices and vocabulary.  One of his daily events featured a word of the day.  I always thought he was making them up until I was in sixth grade and one of my spelling words-eloquent-was one I heard on his show.  Then I learned the words were real but his definitions were the punch line.  It made me love Ingram even more and helped expand my vocabulary exponentially.

His show also featured an honor group of the day which ranged from those in certain professions, or hobbyists and club members to every other group in between, making anyone feel welcome in his world.  He referred to his audience as “the Ingramess” but kept it personal with his signature sign off  of “Bye now, Kemosabe” while big band music played him off.  Years later he moved to WCBS-FM where he did weekend shows and he was better than ever.  When he died on June 24 at the age of 83 it was like losing one of my dearest, oldest friends.   And for those of you not lucky enough to know who this man was, here’s a clip of his genius.

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Dan Ingram at WCBS-FM circa 1990’s (courtesy of the NY Times).

The friends we make in childhood we remember forever.  And I had some of the best.  Winnie the Pooh courtesy of A.A. Milne & Walt Disney, Mr. Rogers, the Peanuts courtesy of Charles M. Schulz and the disc jockeys at 77-WABC.  All of them held a special place in my heart, but Ingram had me holding on to every word.  His comments were as important to me as the lyrics of the songs he played every weekday afternoon.  He was one of the best teachers I ever had.  My childhood was briefer than most but he was a huge part of it.  And in those memories of when my life was whole, happy and full of color, he was one of the most vibrant ones.  I had the chance to interview him by phone many years ago when I was writing an article about CBS-FM’s yearly Thanksgiving countdown and it was one of the high points of my life.  Getting the chance to thank him for being such a hero of mine was one of the greatest gifts I was ever given.  His loss has me heartbroken in so many ways.  It is like losing the last piece of my childhood.

Then less than two months later, we lost the Queen:  Aretha Franklin.  For those of you who follow my blog, you know how much I love music, so this loss is ENORMOUS.  There will never EVER be a singer like Aretha.  Her voice, her soul, her passion, her songs……sublime.  The world is truly a darker place without her in it.  Yes, we will always have the music.  But her mere presence made our world a better place.  I am just devastated.

This is not as popular as some of her other songs, but it is one of my favorites:  “Angel“.

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                                                     Aretha Franklin at her concert at Jones Beach, NY July, 2011. 

Now we have lost Burt Reynolds.   If you saw my Instagram post about him yesterday, you know the first film I saw of his was “The Longest Yard”.  His infectious laugh hit me harder than his looks.  Who did not love him in the “Smokey & the Bandit” films?  Or with Goldie Hawn in “Best Friends”?  And how great was he on one of my favorite (and sorely underrated) shows, “Evening Shade”?  And how about him with my favorite ladies on “The Golden Girls”?  He was definitely a big part of my childhood, and now he is gone too.  Sigh.

Burt with the girls

Burt Reynolds on “The Golden Girls” in 1986.  

I know full well that loss is a part of life, but this year has just brought so many that have forced me to revisit parts of my life I try to steer clear of.  Yes, avoidance works well for me.  Sometimes.

I tried writing about these losses as they occurred, but again, avoidance & the lack of creativity stopped that from happening.  But now that the summer is over but the losses continue, I am hoping that by finally writing about them will change my luck and the trajectory of the universe for a while.  One can hope, right?

The song I have been listening to almost non stop these last few months is one I have ADORED forever.  It is a sad song about the loss of a love but it is so achingly beautiful I find myself identifying with it while reflecting on the losses of my youth.  When I remember that this horribly underrated singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist wrote this song nearly 50 years ago before he turned 25 I am blown away.  If this was all he ever gave us, what a contribution it was on its own.  But he also blessed us with “For What It’s Worth”, “Suite:  Judy Blue Eyes”, “Love the One You’re With”, “Southern Cross” and many other songs which are enigmatic, timeless and beautiful.

“Stand by the stairway

You’ll see something certain to tell you

Confusion has its cost”

Stephen Stills (via Crosby, Stills & Nash):  “Helplessly Hoping“.

I do not own the rights to anything.  I am just sharing some of the people & things I love with you.

Until next time, happy digging.