The subject for Day 7 of my 30 Day Song Challenge is “A song to drive to in the morning“. I think it’s a rather odd subject, but my interpretation is that it’s a song that gets you going in the morning, and the one that immediately comes to my mind is “Born to Be Wild” by Steppenwolf. If that adrenaline-inducing rocker – perfectly described by Hal Horowitz of AllMusic as “a roaring anthem of turbo-charged riff rock” – doesn’t charge your engines first thing in the morning, then nothing will!
“Born to Be Wild” was originally written as a ballad by Canadian rock musician Mars Bonfire (aka Dennis Edmonton), who was previously a member of the Sparrows, the predecessor band to Steppenwolf, and whose brother Jerry became Steppenwolf’s drummer. The other founding members of Steppenwolf included John Kay (born Joachim Fritz Krauledat in Germany) on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Michael Monarch on lead guitar, Rushton Moreve on bass, and Goldy McJohn on keyboards. Bonfire initially offered the song to a few other bands, but “Born to Be Wild” was eventually recorded by Steppenwolf in a sped-up and rearranged version that came to define their signature hard rock sound. Those raging riffs of shredded guitars, chugging rhythms and thunderous percussion, accompanied by fantastic psychedelic keyboards and Kay’s powerful gritty vocals, made the song a classic that beautifully captured the rebelliousness of the late 60s.
The song is often invoked in both popular and counter culture to symbolize a biker appearance or attitude, partly due to being featured in the 1969 film Easy Rider. It’s also been described by many as the first heavy metal song, and the second verse lyric “heavy metal thunder” was the first use of this term in rock music. According to Robert Walser in his 1993 book Running with the Devil: Power, Gender, andMadness in Heavy Metal Music, the words “heavy metal thunder” describe a motorcycle, not a musical style.
“Born to Be Wild” became Steppenwolf’s most successful single, reaching #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles charts. (It was kept from the #1 spot by the Rascals’ “People Got to Be Free”.) RollingStone ranked “Born to Be Wild” at #129 on their 2004 list of 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, and in the same year, the song was ranked #29 on AFI‘s 100 Years…100 Songs survey of top tunes in American cinema. VH1 ranked it #40 in their list of the 100 Greatest Songs of Rock and Roll in 2000, and the 53rd best hard rock song of all time in 2009. In 2018, the song was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in a new category for singles. (Wikipedia)
Here’s the iconic scene from Easy Rider in which “Born to Be Wild” is featured
While driving to an appointment this morning, I heard the Cars song “Magic” on the radio, and started thinking of all the hit songs either titled Magic or having the word in their title. So, without further ado, here are the memorable hit songs from 1960 to the present with ‘magic’ in their title.
1. MAGIC – Pilot (1975)
The first hit song simply titled “Magic,” this fun, upbeat pop-rock tune by one-hit wonder Scottish band Pilot was produced by Alan Parsons of the Alan Parsons Project (who themselves had a string of hits from 1976-84). It was a big hit, reaching #5 and spending 12 weeks on the Billboard Top 40.
2. MAGIC – Olivia Newton-John (1980)
The biggest “magic” hit of them all, Olivia Newton-John’s “Magic” spent 4 weeks at #1 and 16 weeks on the Billboard Top 40. This really terrific song was featured in the really terrible musical Xanadu which, in addition to Newton-John, also starred Gene Kelly. The song was written by John Farrar who, along with Jeff Lynne of Electric Light Orchestra, also wrote the lyrics and music for the film soundtrack. Though the film was a flop, the soundtrack album was hugely successful, spawning several other hits for Newton-John and ELO (whose career was nearly wrecked by their involvement with the film).
3. MAGIC – The Cars (1984)
The second single from their phenomenal album Heartbeat City, The Cars’ “Magic” is an awesome pop-rock song – but then I’m biased, as I pretty much love all their songs. It was a modest hit, spending 11 weeks on the Billboard Top 40 and peaking at #12.
4. MAGIC – Robin Thicke (2008)
This “Magic” by American R&B singer Robin Thicke is from his third studio album Something Else. The song was written by him along with his then wife Paula Patton and James Gass. It reached #2 on both the Billboard Adult R&B and Dance Club Charts, and #6 on the R&B/Hip Hop Chart, but only #59 on the Hot 100.
5. MAGIC – Coldplay (2014)
Another great “magic” song, this one by Coldplay was the first single from their rather experimental album Ghost Stories. It was a departure from their usual music style, and received critical acclaim, though some complained that it sounded too much like the Muse song “Madness,” with its similar chord progression and climactic flourish. The song peaked at #14 on the Billboard Top 40 and #1 on the Adult Alternative Chart. There’s no denying that the song’s video is absolutely brilliant. Chris Martin plays both the good and bad guys, and Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi plays the beautiful magician.
6. THIS MAGIC MOMENT – Drifters (1960); Jay & the Americans (1969)
This song was composed by lyricist Doc Pomus and pianist Mort Shuman, and was a modest hit first for Ben E. King and the Drifters, who took it to #16 in 1960. Jay & the Americans recorded another version of the song in 1968, and it reached #6 in March 1969, and spent 10 weeks in the Top 40.
7. PUFF, THE MAGIC DRAGON – Peter, Paul & Mary (1963)
This sweet, poignant song was written by Leonard Lipton and Peter Yarrow of the folk band Peter, Paul & Mary, and was based on an earlier poem by Lipton. The song was a big hit, peaking at #2 and spending 11 weeks in the Billboard Top 40.
8. DO YOU BELIEVE IN MAGIC? – The Lovin’ Spoonful (1965)
The Lovin’ Spoonful were one of the most successful American pop-rock bands of the mid 60s and their catchy, upbeat song “Do You Believe in Magic? was their first chart hit, peaking at #9 and spending eight weeks in the Billboard Top 40.
9. MAGIC CARPET RIDE – Steppenwolf (1968)
From the legendary hard rock band Steppenwolf, this amazing song was so representative of the psychedelic influence in a lot of rock songs during the period from 1966-69. It was a huge hit, reaching #3 and spending 13 weeks in the Billboard Top 40.
10. MAGIC BUS – The Who (1968)
This great classic from The Who was written by Pete Townshend in 1965 while they were recording My Generation, but the song was not recorded by the band until 1968. Although they were one of the biggest bands in the world from the late 60s through the early 80s, selling millions of albums and selling out hundreds of concerts, they had relatively few big “hits” on the Billboard Hot 100 (which was also true for many other rock bands). “Magic Bus” peaked at #25 and spent only six weeks in the Top 40.
11. BLACK MAGIC WOMAN – Santana (1970)
Undoubtedly one of the best of the “magic” songs, “Black Magic Woman” is a rock classic from the legendary guitarist Carlos Santana and his band. The guitar riffs in this song are incredible. It was hugely popular, peaking at #4 and spending 12 weeks in the Top 40.
12. MAGIC MAN – Heart (1976)
The second single from Heart’s brilliant debut album Dreamboat Annie, “Magic Man” was their first Top 10 hit, peaking at #9. Ann Wilson said it was about her then boyfriend Michael Fisher, who was the band manager and several years older than her. The song’s unique sound was produced by the use of a Minimoog synthesizer.
13. COULD IT BE MAGIC – Barry Manilow (1975); Donna Summer (1976)
“Could It Be Magic” was written by lyricist Adrienne Anderson and pianist Barry Manilow. The melody was based on Frederic Chopin’s Prelude in C Minor. Initially released in 1971, it was later re-recorded, and released as a single in 1975. It was Manilow’s third charting single, peaking at #6 and spending 13 weeks on the Billboard Top 40. Disco diva Donna Summer recorded another version of the song for her album A Love Trilogy, which peaked at #3 on the Billboard Dance Chart, but only at #52 on the Hot 100.
14. STRANGE MAGIC – Electric Light Orchestra (1976)
British symphonic rock band Electric Light Orchestra was immensely popular and successful, with twenty Top 40 singles during the years 1975-86. From their fifth studio album Face the Music, the beautiful track “Strange Magic” was their third charting single, peaking at #14 and spending nine weeks in the Top 40.
15. YOU MADE ME BELIEVE IN MAGIC – Bay City Rollers (1977)
This song was the fifth charting single from the Scottish pop band Bay City Rollers, and the only song of theirs that I could ever tolerate. It peaked at #10 and spent 12 weeks in the Billboard Top 40.
16. IF IT’S MAGIC – Stevie Wonder (1977)
One of Stevie Wonder’s most beautiful songs, “If It’s Magic” is from his magnificent opus album Songs In The Key Of Life. This song never charted, but I included it on this list because it’s such a wonderful track.
17. EVERY LITTLE THING SHE DOES IS MAGIC – The Police (1981)
One of the best of many awesome songs from The Police, “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic” is from their fantastic fourth album Ghost in the Machine. This song was unique in that it includes the piano as an instrument, uncommon for most Police songs. It was a big hit, peaking at #3 and spending 15 weeks in the Top 40.
18. YOU CAN DO MAGIC – America (1982)
This really lovely pop-rock song by America was released ten years after their massively successful debut single “A Horse With No Name,” an indication of their staying power. “You Can Do Magic” was their seventh Top 10 single, peaking at #8 and spending 15 weeks in the Top 40.
19. MAGIC STICK – Lil’ Kim & 50 Cent (2003)
“Magic Stick,” by hip hop artist Lil’ Kim, is from her third studio album La Bella Mafia. The song features fellow American rapper 50 Cent and was produced by Carlos “Fantom of the Beat” Evans. Despite not having a physical release or music video, the song was a huge hit, peaking at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100.
20. 24K MAGIC – Bruno Mars (2016)
The most recent “magic” song on this list – and currently at #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 as of the date of this post – the wonderfully funky and upbeat “24K Magic” looks to be another smash hit for R&B singer Bruno Mars.
Let me know what you think of these songs, or if I left out any other “magic” hit songs.