I put a spell on you — WiseTribe’s top 11 Halloween songs
I put a spell on you.
Because you’re mine.
Who doesn’t remember this 1956 classic from Screamin’ Jay Hawkins? The original shock rocker, Hawkins parlayed his operatic vocal stylings and macabre stage theatrics into a unique career that guaranteed new popularity every Halloween season. Smart fella.
Some other smart fellas and gals got on the ghost train to Halloween immortality by infecting us with their own flavors of earworm. Now, we cannot celebrate Halloween without Halloween music. If you dare, check out WiseTribe’s list of the top 11 modern(ish) Halloween songs.
1) I Put a Spell on You (1956)
Many have covered this classic, but it is best associated with Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. Did you know that Hawkins (who wrote the song) actually initially intended it as a refined love ballad?
2) Monster Mash (1962)
Bobby (Boris) Pickett’s classic Halloween novelty song reached #1 on the Billboard pop charts in October 1962. Whatever happened to my Transylvania twist? It’s now the mash.
3) House of the Rising Sun (1964)
The Animals made this rock classic famous, taking it all the way to No. 1 in the U.S., U.K., Sweden, Finland and Canada. The song is known to have been recorded as far back as 1934 and emerged from European folklore.
4) Season of the Witch (1966)
Donovan wrote Season of the Witch, considered to be one of the earliest “psychedelic” songs. You’ve got to pick up every stitch to suss out the meaning behind Donovan’s haunting, ubiquitous classic. Sure is strange.
5) Witchy Woman (1972)
Raven hair and ruby lips. The Eagles’ Don Henley (with Bernie Leadon) made witches eternally sexy with just five words. Can this song really be 43 years old?
6) (Don’t Fear) the Reaper (1976)
Blue Oyster Cult’s biggest chart success, which peaked at #12 on the Billboard top 100 in 1976. Billboard put it in its top 10 of all-time Halloween songs.
7) I Love the Night (1977)
Haunting. Beautiful. Romantic. An unmistakable vampire song. Lesser known than Blue Oyster Cult’s monster hit, “Reaper,” but for my money, the spookiest of their two best macabre songs.
8) Psycho Killer (1977)
Psycho killer, qu’est que c’est? The Talking Heads advise you better run run run run away. Lead Talking Head David Byrne imagined this song as “Alice Cooper doing a Randy Newman-type ballad.” Did he succeed? One of the Heads’ best known and enduring songs, it only peaked at #92 on the Billboard charts.
9) Werewolves of London (1978)
His hair was perfect. This classic by expert songsmith Warren Zevon (co-writers LeRoy Marinell and Waddy Wachtel) contains arguably the greatest single-line lyric in pop music: “Little old lady got mutilated last last night.” If you’ve got a lyric that beats the way that rolls of the tongue, put it in a response post … if you dare.
10) Bela Lugosi’s Dead (1979)
Lugosi died in 1956, so this song certainly wasn’t offering breaking news. Bauhaus’ 9+-minute tribute to the enduring vampire shadow cast by actor Bela Lugosi simultaneously spooks, rocks and pays homage to our love of vampire cinema while furthering the notion that Lugosi himself was some kind of dark figure. Mostly, he was just a Hungarian-American actor who chafed at getting second billing to Boris Karloff. Goths and the Goth-curious still lap it up to this day and it’s made its way into numerous movies and television programs.
11) Thriller (1982)
Billboard crowns Michael Jackson’s multi-platinum pop classic as the top Halloween-themed song of all time. What do you say? What’s your favorite? I won’t tell you my favorite but I did see the performer live in concert one time. I’d like to meet his tailor.
There are three generations of songs on this list. I’ve got more than 600 Halloween-tastic songs on one of my iPod playlists. These are what I would call a good start. What would you add?
An earlier version of this article originally appeared on WiseTribe.