If you look around online for a list of Halloween songs, the lists are almost exactly the same. To save you the time of looking, here’s a sample list: Monster Mash, Thriller, I Put A Spell On You (various versions), Ghostbusters, Zombie (the Cranberries), Black Magic Woman, Superstition, Hungry Like the Wolf, Time Warp, and the themes from the Addams Family and the Munsters.
This is not that list.
Here’s an assortment of songs that almost none of the lists out there mention:
Lady Samantha by either Elton John or Three Dog Night. The song was the first single Elton’s record company released in the US, coming out for the first time in 1969 and re-released a year later. Nobody paid it much attention and it didn’t get on an album or CD for a decade or two. Three Dog Night covered the song on their second album, but never released the song as a single. It fits our Halloween theme thanks to the lyrics, “Her home is the hillside, her bed is the grave,” which makes the lady a ghost.
Angie Baby by Helen Reddy was a number one record in 1974, her second most successful single after I Am Woman. It’s a story tune that relates the way a young woman with challenged intellect but mystical powers of some sort. She turns the tables on a despicable man who intended to take advantage of her. The video I’ve linked in leads to a cartoon version of the song that comes complete with a possibly haunted house.
And while we’re doing cartoon videos, here’s one for Cher’s Dark Lady. This time we get a Dark Lady in New Orleans who casts spells of black magic…she picked the wrong victim when she goes after Cher!
All You Zombies by the Hooters makes the list just on the strength of its title. The Hooters went on to have bigger hits with And We Danced and Day By Day, but their first single is still my favorite.
Ghost Riders in the Sky was released as a single by Burl Ives in 1948, but it was Vaughn Monroe who had the #1 hit with the song a year later. The recording is considered one of the top ten Country and Western songs of all time. Vaughn’s career ran from his first hit record in 1940 up to the middle of the fifties and included two dozen top ten records, so stop rolling your eyes and complaining that you’ve never heard of him. Once again there’s an animated video for the record (just ignore the Spanish titles at the start).
Dinner With Drac was the sole hit single for John Zacherle, one of the best-known horror television show hosts (he predated Svengoolie and Elvira by a few decades, but trailed behind Vampira by a few years). He hosted late-night horror films on local television stations in New York and Philadelphia in the fifties and sixties (and was even a regular on the Captain Kangaroo show in the eighties). He had a record album with the hit single and wrote a few books as well.
Spooky by the Classics IV began as an instrumental by Mike Sharpe, but it didn’t become a hit until lyrics were added and sung by Dennis Yost later in 1967. It was the first hit record for the group (a few failed singles came first) but was not their entire career – additional hits Stormy and Traces came along the next two years, after which their star faded. The song was a minor hit about a decade later for the Atlanta Rhythm Section, a group that included two of the former members of the Classics IV.
The Witch Queen of New Orleans by Redbone came out after their first chart record (Maggie) made two runs on the charts, stopping at #80 in 1971 and #45 in 1972). The song about Voodoo, zombies, and an immortal witch made it up to #21. A few years later the Native American group scored their biggest hit record with the release of Come and Get Your Love, but that song simply doesn’t fit our holiday.
No list of Halloween themed songs would be complete without the inclusion of Laurie (Strange Things Happen) by Dickie Lee. The song includes a ghost, a graveyard, spooky voices, and a twist ending – give it a listen if you don’t recognize the song. Dickie had hits in 1962 and 1963 with Patches and I Saw Linda Yesterday, and Laurie was his last visit to the Top 40 in the US, but he spent most of the seventies successfully knocking hit records into the Country Charts (reaching that top 10 four times). I’ve linked in a video that does an amazing job of reflecting the lyrics with a series of pictures.