Do You Believe In Magic?

Album: Do You Believe In Magic (1965)
Charted: 9
Play Video

Songfacts®:

  • 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, Carlin America publishing for all above.) >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Carlin America publishing for all above.
  • 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. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    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.)
  • The song features a sweeping autoharp intro, which John Sebastian told Mojo magazine was sparked by Martha and the Vandellas' "(Love Is Like a) Heat Wave." He explained: "It had an ascending chord sequence that I was fascinated with. By chance, I was playing the autoharp, experimenting with electrifying it through this big amplifier. I realized that if I turned a few of the major 7ths to minor 7ths, I would have those chords. I also wanted that groove from (The Hollywood Flames 1957 hit) 'Buzz Buzz Buzz.'"

Comments: 31

  • Jim From Morgantown, WvDefinitely 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?
  • Jennifur Sun from RamonaI Believe In Magic. Thanks guys.
  • Mavis from Upper MidwestCamille in Toronto, I was 13 that summer. Remember it well.
  • Jessica from UsaThis song was used in a rather horrifying way in Valve's "Meet the Pyro" video. Basically, this song is playing in the happy, love-filled, rainbow world of Pyro's imagination. But back in reality...

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WUhOnX8qt3I
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn August 28th 1965, the Lovin' Spoonful performed "Do You Believe in Magic" on the ABC-TV program 'American Bandstand'...
    At the time of this appearance on 'Bandstand' the song was at #79 on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; and forty-three days later on October 10th, 1965 it would peak at #9 {for 1 week}...
    {See next post below}...
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn August 15th 1965, "Do You Believe In Magic" by the Lovin' Spoonful entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #96; and on October 10th, 1965 it peaked at #9 {for 1 week} and spent 13 weeks on the Top 100...
    It reached #3 on the Canadian RPM 100 singles chart...
    Was their debut record on the Top 100 and started the string of seven straight Top 10 records, next came "You Didn't Have to Be So Nice" {#10}, "Daydream" {#2}, "Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind?" {#2}, "Summer in the City" {#1}, "Rain on the Roof" {#10}, and "Nashville Cats" {#8}...
    Shaun Cassidy's covered version stayed on the Top 100 for 10 weeks, peaking at #31 {for 1 week} on May 7th, 1978...
    Sadly, lead guitarist 'Zal' Yanovsky passed away on December 13th, 2002 at the young age of 57.
  • Terry from Valliant, OkIf 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.
  • Camille from Toronto, OhDefinitely 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?
  • Jim from Morgantown, WvJulia Nunes does a wonderful ukulele version of this on YouTube. It's worth searching for.
  • Fred from Laurel, MdFirst, 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.
  • Joe from Cleveland, OhI 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.
  • Jared from Perth, Australiathis 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 happy
  • Kenny from Clydebank, ScotlandIt'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.
  • Meredith from Wauwatosa, WiFun fact: Vivian Vance (Ethel Mertz from I Love Lucy) was John Sebastian's godmother. This is my absolute FAVORITE Lovin' Spoonful song!!!!!!
  • Tina from Norcross, GaA "oldies" radio station in Miami, Florida, WMXJ, Magic 102.7, used this song as their theme song.
  • William from Glasgow, ScotlandAnother 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.
  • Brandon from Peoria, IlThis 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.
  • Cameron from Koroit, Australiaapart 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!
  • Ekristheh from Halath, United StatesThe 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.
  • Sean from TorontoIn "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.
  • Fyodor from Denver, CoI 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.
  • Barry from Lakeland, FlJohn 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."
  • Mitchell from Auckland, New ZealandThis is a cool song, a remake of it appeared in Disney's "Now You See It..."
  • Rick from San Juan, United StatesI remember John Sebastian strumming a dulcimer while he performed "Do You Believe In Magic" with The Lovin' Spoonful.
  • James from Glasgow, ScotlandJOHN SEBASTIAN WAS IN THE SAME CLASS AS PAUL SIMON AS A SINGER/SONGWRITER. HE WAS TRULY MAGIC, I BELIEVE

    JAMES, GLASGOW, SCOTLAND
  • Barry from New York, NcOn 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.
  • Ross from Independence, MoThere should be more comments. I mean this was a great song.
  • Ross from Independence, MoThis is #215 in Rolling Stone's list of 500 greatest songs.
  • Kristen from Campbellville, CanadaI love this song especially the ending, and I was born in the 80s
  • Brandon from Seattle, WaThe 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."
  • Sarah from Ottawa, CanadaThis song is awesome! It had such a 60's beat to it. There were a lot of people that covered it too.
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Emmylou Harris

Emmylou HarrisSongwriter Interviews

She thinks of herself as a "song interpreter," but back in the '80s another country star convinced Emmylou to take a crack at songwriting.

Millie Jackson

Millie JacksonSongwriter Interviews

Outrageously gifted and just plain outrageous, Millie is an R&B and Rap innovator.

Tony Joe White

Tony Joe WhiteSongwriter Interviews

The writer of "Rainy Night in Georgia" and "Polk Salad Annie" explains how he cooks up his Louisiana swamp rock.

The Real Nick Drake

The Real Nick DrakeSong Writing

The head of Drake's estate shares his insights on the late folk singer's life and music.

Richard Butler of The Psychedelic Furs

Richard Butler of The Psychedelic FursSongwriter Interviews

Psychedelic Furs lead singer Richard Butler talks about their first album since 1991 and explains what's really going on in "Pretty In Pink."

Sam Hollander

Sam HollanderSongwriter Interviews

The hitmaking songwriter/producer Sam Hollander with stories about songs for Weezer, Panic! At The Disco, Train, Pentatonix, and Fitz And The Tantrums.