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Do You Believe In Magic? by The Lovin' Spoonful

Album: Do You Believe In Magic?Released: 1965Charted:
9
  • This was written by John Sebastian, who formed The Lovin' Spoonful with his friend, Zal Yanovsky. Sebastian and Yanovsky were in a group called The Mugwumps, and made a name for themselves playing clubs in Greenwich Village. When the other Mugwumps - Mama Cass Elliot and Denny Doherty - moved to California and formed The Mamas And The Papas, they formed the band and Sebastian began focusing on songwriting. The Lovin' Spoonful started playing electric instruments to get away from the folk music sound and attract a younger contemporary rock audience.
  • The Lovin' Spoonful played regularly at a famous club called The Night Owl Cafe. Said Sebastian:
    "We were playing pretty steadily for the local people from Greenwich Village who were part of the Jazz scene or part of the kind of downtown 'in crowd.' They were 'finger poppers,' guys who played chess, 'beatniks.' But there was this one particular night as we were playing, I looked out in the audience and saw this beautiful 16-year-old girl just dancing the night away. And I remember Zal and I just elbowed each other the entire night because to us that young girl symbolized the fact that our audience was changing, that maybe they had finally found us. I wrote Do You Believe In Magic the next day."
  • Turning down an offer from Phil Spector because they didn't want to "be swallowed up under his name," The Lovin' Spoonful signed to a new record label called Kama Sutra. This was the first song they recorded for the label, and it was the first of a string of hits for the group, which included "Daydream," "Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind?" and "Summer In The City."
  • This is a very popular song for advertising campaigns. It has been used in commercials for Mercedes Benz, McDonald's, Burger King, Kohl's, Dash Detergent and the Trump Casino.
  • This has been featured on the soundtracks to the movies Parent Trap, Disney's Return To Neverland, Gulliver's Travels and One Trick Pony.
  • In 1978, Shaun Cassidy covered this. Other musicians to record it include David Cassidy, The Turtles, The Chambers Brothers, John Mellencamp and Dion & The Belmonts. Cher also recorded it solo and with Sonny & Cher.
  • As the '60s drew to a close, The Lovin' Spoonful disbanded and Sebastian started working on a variety of projects. He wrote music for the Care Bear series, published children's books, made harmonica instruction videos, and was a guest star on the TV show Married With Children. In 1976, he wrote the theme song to the TV show Welcome Back Kotter, which was a #1 hit. (Thanks to Carlin America publishing for all above. For more, check out www.carlinamerica.com)
  • In the movie American Pie, Chris "Oz" Ostreicher (Chris Klein) sings a verse of this song when talking to Steve Stifler (Seann William Scott) in the sauna room. (thanks, Jared - Norwalk, OH)
  • This was used as the theme song to a short-lived US TV series called State Of Grace. The show started in 2001 and was canceled a year later.
  • In a Songfacts interview, Alan Merrill, who later joined The Arrows and wrote "I Love Rock And Roll," reveals that he narrowly missed an opportunity to debut with this song: "This was mid-'60s. The Lovin' Spoonful were starting, and Laura Nyro said, 'Why don't you audition for the Lovin' Spoonful? Now you know how to play bass, they're looking for a bass player. But you'd have to quit school.' And I said, 'I don't want to quit school.' So I went over to her house after school one day, and she put this record on, and it was 'Do You Believe In Magic.' She just looked at me and said, 'This is what you didn't go to do.' And I was like, 'Oh, s--t, it's gonna be a #1 record. I blew it. I could have been the 14-year-old bass player in the Lovin' Spoonful.'" (Check out our interview with Alan Merrill.)
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Comments: 25

If you've ever seen "The Jerk" with Steve Martin, you'll remember him trying to dance on the porch with his family, and he's always a beat or two off. He learned that move from me. Not really, but I'm about as horrible at dancing as Martin in that movie. But whenever I'm alone, and "Do You Believe in Magic" comes on, I will get up a hit a lick or two. Maybe one of these days, I'll actually be hitting those licks in time with the song.Terry - Valliant, Ok
Definitely deserves to be on that Rolling Stone list of the 500 greatest songs. The lyrics capture exactly what was happening on the music front in the mid 60s: magic. You only had to believe and you could be transported. I love how there's really no refrain. Catchy, easy to sing along with words. Many of us have truly seen the "magic in a young girl's heart; how the music can free her whenever it starts". Do you believe, like I believe?Camille - Toronto, Oh
Julia Nunes does a wonderful ukulele version of this on YouTube. It's worth searching for.Jim - Morgantown, Wv
First, on the topmost Songfact on this page, I would like to add that all this, and more, is chronicled in the M&P song, Creeque Alley (1967). **** Second, to Sean in Toronto -- How Sweet It Is (TBLBY) was *covered* by James Taylor in 1975; the original was a Motown hit by Marvin Gaye in 1964, written by the legendary Motown hit machine, Holland-Dozier-Holland. That said, JT did a superb rendition. **** Finally, I have to agree with all here who say that this song, as well as the whole LS sound, is magic. I still enjoy playing this song solo on an acoustic 12-string; it works remarkably well that way, as do all their 1965-1968 material. I particularly loved their 2nd single, which bombed on the charts, "You Didn't Have To Be So Nice." "Magic" (1st single), and "Daydream" (3rd single) blew it away in sales. I adore all 3 of these, and most of the rest of their songs.Fred - Laurel, Md
I saw the Spoonful perform this live in 1965, and I can tell you this--they were LOUD! If you watch the DVD called The Big TNT Show, you can get an idea of how exciting the Spoonful were as a live band.Joe - Cleveland, Oh
this is one of the greatest songs of all time because it perfectly encapsulates the effects that music can have on people i.e. music is the magic that can turn sad into happyJared - Perth, Australia
It's a great upbeat song. It's magic! I remember seeing John Sebastian on a rockumentary talkin' bout Bob Dylan, how Bob took it upon himself to tell the world in his songs what it was doing wrong. That was funny. It summed up an aspect of Bob's stance as a songwriter. But 'Do you Believe in Magic' is a pleaser, and we need more of these songs that put a smile on your face. It's a kind of magic making people happy.Kenny - Clydebank, Scotland
Fun fact: Vivian Vance (Ethel Mertz from I Love Lucy) was John Sebastian's godmother. This is my absolute FAVORITE Lovin' Spoonful song!!!!!!Meredith - Wauwatosa, Wi
A "oldies" radio station in Miami, Florida, WMXJ, Magic 102.7, used this song as their theme song.Tina - Norcross, Ga
Another movie it features in is "In America", directed by Jim Sheridan. It's about an Irish-immigrant family who come to America illegally after the death of one of their children. There's a great scene as they enter the city at nighttime with the streets lit up and 'Do You Believe ...' is on the car radio. An incredible movie moment. Awesome song.William - Glasgow, Scotland
This song was used in the 1980's McDonald's commercials (before they went all ghetto). Remember...Grimace, Birdie, the Fry Kids, and of course Ronald McDonald. (Those were the days). The song went "Do you believe in magic, and i hope you do. You'll always see a friend in big red shoes..." Every time now that i hear the real song, i briefly think about that commercial.Brandon - Peoria, Il
apart from appearing in the abovementioned movies this song also featured in a movie called "magic in the water" about a young girl and a magical sea creature. Its an unreal song! Rock on!Cameron - Koroit, Australia
The reason that they perceived a change in their audience from the fact that they saw a 16-year-old dancing to their music was that their previous audience had been, as is stated, jazz-scene types -- chess players, "finger-poppers", beatniks -- this demographic is somewhat older, college or graduate student age, 20s-30s. She would have been eight to ten years younger than many of these fellows. To see her dancing to their music would have been an enormous contrast at the time, relatively speaking.Ekristheh - Halath, United States
In "American Pie", Chris Klein's actually not singing that particular song in the sauna room. He sings one line (actually, just the title) of "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)" by James Taylor. However, "Do You Believe In Magic" is sung at the choir rehearsal.Sean - Toronto
I saw Sebastion on some rockumentary saying this song was about rock taking over from the folk scene. Amazing that seeing a 16 year-old dancing told them that the winds were changing, and they were right! No one would see a teenager dancing as much of an omen nowadays.Fyodor - Denver, Co
John Sebastian played autoharp on "Do You Believe in Magic." It's clearly heard on the single, and I remember seeing him play it when the group performed the song on "American Bandstand." Plus he's playing autoharp on the album cover for "Hums of the Lovin' Spoonful."Barry - Lakeland, Fl
This is a cool song, a remake of it appeared in Disney's "Now You See It..."Mitchell - Auckland, New Zealand
I remember John Sebastian strumming a dulcimer while he performed "Do You Believe In Magic" with The Lovin' Spoonful.Rick - San Juan, United States
JOHN SEBASTIAN WAS IN THE SAME CLASS AS PAUL SIMON AS A SINGER/SONGWRITER. HE WAS TRULY MAGIC, I BELIEVE

JAMES, GLASGOW, SCOTLAND
James - Glasgow, Scotland
On the marker/monument that was erected on the site of the Woodstock Festival in Bethel, New York, John Sebastian (author of "Do You Believe In Magic" and the other Spoonful classics) is spelled incorrectly. On the marker, it reads: "John Sabastian." This isn't the only error. They forgot to include Bert Sommer, Quill, and the Keef Hartley Band, other acts that performed on Woodstock's main stage.Barry - New York, Nc
There should be more comments. I mean this was a great song.Ross - Independence, Mo
This is #215 in Rolling Stone's list of 500 greatest songs.Ross - Independence, Mo
I love this song especially the ending, and I was born in the 80sKristen - Campbellville, Canada
The Turtles did not record this. Although, it would seem like a song the Turtles would be influenced by. But, they did not cover a version.

And, to all music experts: the Turtles' "You Baby Nobody But You" is not the same song as the Lovin' Spoonful's song: "You Baby."
Brandon - Seattle, Wa
This song is awesome! It had such a 60's beat to it. There were a lot of people that covered it too.Sarah - Ottawa, Canada