That Old Black Magic

Album: Greatest Hits (1943)
Charted: 1
  • songfacts ®
  • Lyrics
  • This Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer song was originally recorded by Glenn Miller, who had a #1 hit with it in 1943. Singer Billy Daniels performed it the same year in a club appearance, giving the song a highly dramatic treatment that it hadn't had before. Five years later he recorded it for Apollo and his version went on to sell 12 million copies, earning Daniels the moniker of "The Old Black Magic Man" for the rest of his career. Jazz trumpeter/singer/ band leader/Jungle Book's King Louie - Louis Prima recorded a duet of this song with his fourth wife Keely Smith in 1958 for the movie Senior Prom. Their version won the 1959 Grammy Award for Best Performance by a Vocal Group or Chorus, and hit #18 in the US. Other notable versions of this much-recorded standard include ones by Margaret Whiting, Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. The latter's 1955 recording was a Top 20 hit in both the UK and US.
  • According to Michael Feinstein's American Songbook, Mercer was having an affair with Judy Garland and wrote the lyrics with her in mind, particularly the line, "I should stay away, but what can I do?" By the time the song came out, Garland had married - and was separated from - her first husband, composer David Rose. Mercer continued to pine for the young star through his songs, including "One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)."
  • Arlen was appreciative of Mercer's lyrics, which he felt elevated the song: "The words sustain your interest, make sense, contain memorable phrases and tell a story. Without the lyric, the song would be just another song."
Please sign in or register to post comments.

Comments: 5

  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyPer: http://www.oldiesmusic.com/news.htm {12-17-2017}...
    Keely Smith, best remembered for hits like "That Old Black Magic" (#18 in 1958) with then husband Louis Prima, died Saturday (December 16th, 2017) of heart failure in Palm Springs, California at the age of 89. Born Dorothy Keely in Norfolk, Virginia, she began singing while still a teenager with a naval air station band. Though she sang with Earl Bennett's band, her big break came she won an audition to sing with Louis in 1948. Five years later they were married-- resulting in two children. The combination of Keely, Louis and Sam Butera and the Witnesses backing them became the hit of late night Las Vegas where their Sahara Hotel shows-- dubbed "the wildest"-- became the basis of several albums with that name in the title. Their witty stage reparte, which included Keely insulting Louis in a deadpan manner, was copied by many acts, including Sonny & Cher. The duo appeared in the film "Hey Boy! Hey Girl!" in 1959 and won a Grammy that year for Best Performance by a Vocal Group at the first annual awards. The cuple split up in 1961 and Keely settled in to a comfortable solo career as a jazz singer. She married singer/producer/label executive Jimmy Bowen in 1965. It lasted four years. Keely was awarded a golden palm on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars in 1998 and a star on the Hollywood Walk Fame that same year.
    May she R.I.P.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn April 26th 1961, Bobby Rydell performed "That Old Black Magic" on the ABC-TV program 'American Bandstand'...
    Five days later on May 1st, 1961 it entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 at position #53; and on May 29th, 1961 it peaked at #21 (for 1 week) and spent 8 weeks on the Top 100...
    On the same 'Bandstand' show it also performed "Cherie", it reached #54...
    Interestingly; the A-side of "Cherie" was "Good Time Baby, and it peaked at #11, spent 11 weeks on the Top 100, and was Bobby's 11th chart record on the Top 100...
    On this appearance on "Bandstand' in 1961 he was also celebrating his 19th birthday (he was born on April 26th, 1942).
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyWhen Glenn Miller's "That Old Black Magic" reached #1 on May 29th, 1943 it ended Harry James' "I've Heard That Song Before" amazing 12 consecutive weeks as the No. 1 record. But James did come back a week later to reclaim #1 for one more week!!!
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn May 29th, 1943 "That Old Black Magic" by Glenn Miller reached No. 1 for a one week period!!!
  • Sam from Hipsville, CaBobby Rydell did a great version of this one as well in the early 60's.
see more comments

QueenFact or Fiction

Scaramouch, a hoople and a superhero soundtrack - see if you can spot the real Queen stories.

DevoSongwriter Interviews

Devo founders Mark Mothersbaugh and Jerry Casale take us into their world of subversive performance art. They may be right about the De-Evoloution thing.

16 Songs With a HeartbeatSong Writing

We've heard of artists putting their hearts into their music, but some take it literally.

Top American Idol Moments: Songs And ScandalsSong Writing

Surprise exits, a catfight and some very memorable performances make our list of the most memorable Idol moments.

Bob DaisleySongwriter Interviews

Bob was the bass player and lyricist for the first two Ozzy Osbourne albums. Here's how he wrote songs like "Crazy Train" and "Mr. Crowley" with Ozzy and Randy Rhoads.

Rick AstleySongwriter Interviews

Rick Astley on "Never Gonna Give You Up," "Cry For Help," and his remarkable resurgence that gave him another #1 UK album.