Psychedelic Lunch

Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series, “Spooktober Edition” where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore music from the 60’s to today. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!

Witchcraft By Frank Sinatra. Album: All the Way (1957)

Ive decided to go back in time with an old classic sung by an American singer, actor and producer who was one of the most popular and influential musical artists of the 20th century. He is also one of the best-selling music artists of all time, having sold more than 150 million records worldwide, Francis Albert Sinatra.

The lyrics for the verse makes it clear at the outset that “Witchcraft” is about seduction, seduction that is devilish, poisonous and untrustworthy, seduction that should not be submitted to but is irresistible:

Shades of old Lucretia Borgia!
There’s a devil in you tonight,
‘N’ although my heart 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!

The refrain then delivers the specifics of the seduction and what makes it irresistible.

Those fingers in my hair, That sly come-hither stare…

Finally, the onus is removed when at the end of the song, the singer admits or rationalizes his inability to resist by asserting, “There’s no nicer witch than you.” –And don’t forget to appreciate The wicked rhyme of “Borgia” with “adores Ya.”

Will The Real “Witchcraft” Please Stand Up

The origins of “Witchcraft” are a bit murky It’s not a problem of who wrote the standard. The music comes from Cy Coleman; the words from Carolyn Leigh. And they wrote it early in 1957, not long after Coleman suggested to Leigh that they get together to write and she agreed. David Ewen in his article on Coleman and Leigh in his book American Songwriters (1987), says they wrote their first song together, “A Moment of Madness,” recorded by Sammy Davis, Jr., only two days after Coleman asked her to collaborate; and pretty quickly the pair found some success writing at least four other songs in ’57, one of which was “Witchcraft,” the only big hit, as recorded by Sinatra, of that first bunch.

The conventional wisdom regarding the origins of “Witchcraft,” (the song featured on this page) as related on many websites and in some print sources, is that it was introduced by Gerry Matthews in the 1957 Julius Monk revue Take Five and was then recorded by Frank Sinatra and released later in 1957 reaching #20 on the charts. This sequence is wrong. There was, in fact, a song in Take Five titled “Witchcraft” and it was sung by Gerry Mathews but it is a completely different song than the one with music by Cy Coleman and lyrics by Carolyn Leigh that Sinatra later made famous. 

The Witchcraft” in Take Five is a completely different song written by Michael Brown.

The incorrect notion that the song from Take Five is the same song as recorded by Sinatra has been promulgated on many websites and a few books because there is a considerable amount of circumstantial evidence to support that case: Both songs have the same title; Both songs originally appeared in 1957; the lyrics for one of the songs in the Julius Monk revue Take Five, titled “Westport,” were in fact written by Carolyn Leigh the lyricist for Sinatra’s “Witchcraft”; Leigh also wrote lyrics for the 1958 Julius Monk revue Demi-Dozen, one song from which, “You Fascinate Me So” was written with her then new songwriting partner Cy Coleman, the composer of the Sinatra “Witchcraft.” Nevertheless, despite all of this circumstantial evidence, the two “Witchcrafts” are not even close to being the same song. Some people, of course, knew this all along; for example David Jenness and Don Velsey in their book discuss “Witchcraft” (It has “a fine boogie-like vamp and bass” and “shows Leigh’s ability to use colloquial language that remains just a little obscure: ‘It’s such an ancien pitch / But one I wouldn’t switch. . . .’ also state quite matter-of-factly that “Another good song named ‘Witchcraft’ from the same ears, is by Michael Brown.”

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