Harry has been an online writer for many years. His articles examine New World history and its resulting traditions.
Halloween has changed as it crossed the Atlantic from Europe and is now fervently celebrated in North America. The following are 13 modern 20th-century songs that delve into the dark, but festive holiday.
13 Songs for Halloween
- "I Want Candy"
- "Welcome to My Nightmare"
- "Boris the Spider"
- "Season of the Witch"
- "Witchy Woman"
- "Casting the Spell"
- "Harvest Moon"
- "Ghost Town"
- "A Real Rockin' Rockabilly Graveyard"
- "I'm the Wolfman"
- "The Brian Sisters"
Day of the Dead Candy Skulls
1. "I Want Candy"—Bow Wow Wow
Originally, Halloween candy was part of the food offering left out on All Hallow's Eve to nourish the souls of the dead. In modern day North America, this custom is nearly forgotten. Instead Halloween candy and assorted food items are collected by young children (and the occasional adult) for their own private consumption. And so the title of this popular Bow Wow Wow song fits the current situation very well.
2. "Welcome to My Nightmare"—Alice Cooper
Alice Cooper Makes It Onto the Muppet Show
Being a guest on the Muppet is probably a pretty good sign that you are a musical success. This was not the first appearance with the popular puppets for Gene Simmons, but definitely one of his most macabre. After finding recording success with a string of albums, Simmons's band, Alice Cooper, took a definite turn toward the world of the occult with this song being one of the most noted.
"Boris the Spider"—The Who
A Bit of Campy Horror from the Who
Boris the Spider was the first songwriting credit for John Entwistle, the bass player of the Who. Supposedly, the song was written in six minutes after John had gone out all night drinking with a member of the Rolling Stones. Boris the Spider appeared on the 1966 Who album, titled A Quick One.
4. Season of the Witch—The Strangelings
The Season of the Witch
What would Halloween be without witches and their black cats and where did this mythology come from? The most plausible answer is the Druids. In the Celtic world, Druids were living persons, who were thought to be powerful spiritual guardians and perhaps magicians. They believed that witches were real spirits, who might show up on Halloween. And they might even bring along their black cats, souls of former persons, who once went astray.
Written by English folk performer, Donovan, the Season of the Witch launches into this popular topic in a way that only a Brit could master. This cover version, by the New England based Strangelings, is chosen for the fun visuals that accompany this lively song..
5. "Witchy Woman"—The Eagles
This live version of Witchy Women is included here because of its over-abundance of feminine stereotypes. In this case, the recipient is Zelda Fitzgerald, wife of novelist F. Scott. In reality, Zelda, did have many mental issues. She was diagnosed with schizophrenia and eventually hospitalized and subsequently died in a hospital fire, seven years after the death of her husband.
Whether she deserves such a song is debatable. For more on Zelda, you can read her novel, Save Me the Waltz, which was written in six weeks, while hospitalized at John Hopkins Hospital. Finally, there is The Last Flapper, a one woman play that portrays the tragic life of Zelda.
6. Spooky—‚Dusty Springfield
Returning the Favor
The original version of Spooky was written and recorded by the Zombies. Also known, as A Spooky Little Girl Like You, this tune is a playful jab at the mysterious nature of the opposite sex. In this video, Dusty Springfield returns the favor, as she covers the same tune..
7. "Casting the Spell"—Screamin' Jay Hawkins
From Simple Blues Singer to Crazy Man
Before Jay Hawkins released "I Put a Spell On You" in 1956", he was just an ordinary blues single. But since the song came out, Jay changed his stage name to 'Screaming Jay Hawkins' and created a whole new stage presence that totally reshaped his career. Since 1956, Screaming Jay has appeared on many late night talk shows and even made it into movies with this most popular hit. That's pretty good mileage for one song, possibly a Rock n' Roll record.
8. "Harvest Moon"—Neil Young
The Harvest Moon
If you think Halloween occurs during the Harvest Moon, you are wrong, for the "Harvest Moon" is a real astronomical event that occurs every two or three years, following the autumn equinox, which is one lunar cycle prior to Halloween. Nonetheless, it is important to note that Halloween was originally, in part, a harvest festival, so I included this Neil Young tune anyway.
9. "Ghost Town"—The Specials
When the Specials, a Ska-reggae band visited Glasgow, Scotland, they were surprised and shocked at how abandoned the place was. So they wrote this song and made this music video, which really conjures up some depressing and perhaps sinister images.
10. "Rockin' in the Graveyard"—Jackie Morningstar
A '50s Rockabilly Classic
Not much is known about Jackie Morningstar, except for the fact that he recorded this rockabilly classic in 1959 with Sandy Records in Mobile, Alabama. After recorded this nifty little Halloween song, plus a few others, Jackie then dropped out of sight. Oh yes, and as far as the dancing skeletons go, they are an import from a 1929 Disney cartoon short called The Skeleton Dance.
11. "Spooks"—Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong Joins In with a Spooky Number
Here's another case of a 50s spooky, pop song being matched up with a 1920s Disney short cartoon. The song is done by the legendary Louis Armstrong, while the cartoon features another legendary performer, Mickey Mouse in a cartoon, called The Haunted House.
12. "I'm the Wolfman"—Round Robin
And Don't Forget the Wolfman
I doubt if the old Druids had to worry too much about the Wolfman, for he is more of a modern creation, a spinoff from a 1942 American movie of the same name. Here is Round Robin, a popular L.A. DJ and singer, performing I'm the Wolfman. This is one of nine singles that Round Robib released on Domain Records between 1963 and 1967.
"Woogie Boogie Man"—The Brian Sisters Boogie
A Hollywood Fright Song From WWII
Originally from Utah, the Brian Sisters arrived in Hollywood during the middle of the Great Depression. With their help of their mother, their only living parent at the time, the three girls made a living singing in movies and other venues. In 1942, at the beginning of WWII, they made this Halloween song about the fearful Boogie Woogie man.
© 2017 Harry Nielsen