That Old Black Magic

Reviewed by mojo

I thought my first exposure to this song was Liza Minnelli singing it on the Muppet Show with Dr. Teeth. I seem to remember them dancing with Dr. Teeth's scarily-long striped arms and him shouting "Put out the fire!" when called upon. So I did a YouTube search for "Liza" and "Old Black Magic" and came up blank. Maybe it's someone else I'm thinking of.

So anyway, while I was on YouTube, I figured, what the heck, and I replaced "Liza" with "Ella". JACKPOT! DING DING DING DING DING! Ella sang it a lot, it turns out. Don't blame her none. It's a swell song, and she swings it. I can see why this version was originally cut from the Ella in Berlin album, for it's perfectly fine, but not quite as breathtakingly OUTSTANDING as the songs that DID make the cut.

If I were you, I'd listen to this Berlin version, and then go back to this song's page and go through all the YouTube variations just for fun. Or, if you're not into fun (exactly WHAT are you doing on this site, then? I ask you) then Mojo will assign a composition comparing and contrasting the different versions. There now, you see? And to think Mojo makes you do this when she LIKES you. Imagine what a dreadful taskmaster she would be if she DIDN'T like you....

Even then the work I would demand of you would PALE in comparison to the obvious work our gal Ella put into every song. How many interpretations, Ella? Like stars in the sky, I'm guessing....


Addendum: Turns out it wasn't Liza after all, but Jaye P Morgan. Found the clip, too--it's about three minutes in.

That Old Black Magic (1960)

Click below to hear a sample--or scroll down for associated media: 
From What Album(s)?: 
Ella in Berlin: Mack the Knife
Disc Number: 
Harold Arlen
Johnny Mercer

Here's what Wikipedia has to say:


"That Old Black Magic" is a popular song. The music was written by Harold Arlen, with the lyrics by Johnny Mercer. The song was published in 1942 and has become an often-recorded standard with versions by Glenn Miller, the singers Margaret Whiting, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., Mercer himself, and others. Mercer wrote the lyrics with Judy Garland in mind, who was, on occasion, an intimate partner.

The Glenn Miller recording was released by RCA Victor Records as catalog number 1523. It charted in 1943, spending 14 weeks on the Billboard magazine charts, peaking at position #1. [1]

The Margaret Whiting recording (with the Freddie Slack Orchestra, which got top billing on the label) was released by Capitol Records as catalog number 126. It charted in 1943, spending 1 week at #10 on the Billboard chart. [1]

The Frank Sinatra recorded the song twice: once as a ballad for Columbia, and again in 1961 in a lightly swinging arrangement for Capitol (featured on Come Swing With Me.) Sinatra also sang a slightly altered version of the song titled, "That Old Jack Magic" at the inaugural gala he held for John F. Kennedy the night before Kennedy was inaugurated as the thirty-fifth President of the United States.

A 1950 recording on Mercury Records by Billy Daniels gave him the moniker "The Old Black Magic Man" for the rest of his career.

The Sammy Davis, Jr. recording was released by Decca Records as catalog number 29541. It charted in 1955 and spent 6 weeks on the Billboard charts, peaking at position #16. [1]. Sammy Davis, Jr. performs "That Old Black Magic" during a guest appearance on the television series I Dream of Jeannie.

Marilyn Monroe famously sang the song in her film Bus Stop, in 1956. Her character Cheree is singing the song (somewhat out of key) to an audience who is not listening and talking loudly, until Don Murray quiets them all down.

The duet recorded by Louis Prima and Keely Smith was released as a single in 1958 on the Capitol label. It reached a peak of eighteen on the Billboard Hot 100.

Bobby Rydell had his version released as a single on Cameo in 1961. It reached number twenty-one on the Hot 100.

Johnny Mercer recorded his version in 1974 for his album My Huckleberry Friend.

The tune was featured as background music in the movie, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.

It was featured twice on Star Trek: Voyager. It was sung by Seven of Nine during a simulation of World War II on the first part of the Episode The Killing Game. The second time it was performed by The Doctor and Harry Kim and his jazz band called 'Harry Kim and the Kimtones' in the episode Virtuoso.