Coven (band)

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Coven performing at Roadburn Festival 2017
Coven performing at Roadburn Festival 2017
Background information
OriginChicago, Illinois, U.S.
Years active1967–1975, 2007–present
LabelsMercury, Warner Bros., MGM, Buddah, Nevoc
MembersJinx Dawson
Alex Kercheval
Chris Wild
Colin Oakley
Zayne Hutchison
Past membersOz Osborne
Steve Ross
Rick Durrett
John Hobbs
Chris Neilsen
David Wilkerson
Wade Parish
Christopher Thurmond

Coven is an American rock band formed in Chicago in the late 1960s. They had a top 40 hit in 1971 with the song "One Tin Soldier", the theme song of the movie Billy Jack.

Coven was composed of vocalist Esther "Jinx" Dawson,[2] bassist Greg "Oz" Osborne, guitarist Chris Neilsen, keyboardist Rick Durrett (later replaced by John Hobbs), and drummer Steve Ross. In addition to pioneering occult rock with lyrics and aesthetics that explicitly dealt in themes of Satanism and witchcraft, they are recognized by metal fans and metal historians as being the band that introduced the "Sign of the horns" to rock, metal and pop culture, as seen on their 1969 debut album release Witchcraft Destroys Minds & Reaps Souls.[3][4]


Dawson and Osborne, after playing together in the group Him, Her and Them, formed Coven with Ross in Chicago in the late 1960s. In 1967 and 1968 they toured, playing concerts with artists including Jimmy Page's Yardbirds, the Alice Cooper band, and Vanilla Fudge. Coven signed with Mercury Records and released their debut album, Witchcraft Destroys Minds & Reaps Souls in 1969.

The music on the album was considered underground rock; what made it distinctive was the heavy emphasis on diabolical subject matter, including songs such as "The White Witch of Rose Hall" (based on the story of Annie Palmer), "For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge", "Black Sabbath" and "Dignitaries of Hell". The album concluded with a 13-minute track of chanting and Satanic prayers called "Satanic Mass" (written by their producer, Bill Traut, of Dunwich Productions, and described as "the first Black Mass to be recorded, either in written words or in audio"). This Satanic Mass was also the first time Latin phrases such as "Ave Satanas" were used in occult rock music, and later Satanic and black metal bands continued this innovation (see List of songs with Latin lyrics for some examples). Also included inside the album was Coven's infamous Black Mass poster, showing members of the group displaying the sign of the horns as they prepared for a Satanic ritual over a nude Dawson lying on an altar.

Unwanted publicity came to the band in the form of a sensationalistic Esquire magazine issue entitled "Evil Lurks in California" (Esquire, March 1970), which linked counterculture interest in the occult to Charles Manson and the Tate-La Bianca murders, while also mentioning the Witchcraft album and its Black Mass material. As a result, the album was pulled from circulation.[5]

Dawson recorded the vocals for "One Tin Soldier", the title theme for the 1971 film Billy Jack, which was credited as "sung by Coven". The song, which went on to reach number 26 on the Billboard Hot 100, was written by Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter and was originally released by The Original Caste in 1969. Coven's version also reached the top 10 in Cash Box and was named the Number 1 Most Requested Song in 1971 and 1973 by American Radio Broadcasters. It also peaked at number 45 in Australia.[6] In 1971, the band released a self-titled album that included "One Tin Soldier". Their third album, Blood on the Snow, was produced by Shel Talmy and released by Buddah Records in 1974.

After multiple unlicensed CD releases of the Witchcraft album over the years, it was officially released on the band's own Nevoc label in 2007. The following year, Coven released Metal Goth Queen: Out of the Vault 1976–2007 on Nevoc, an album composed of previously unreleased recordings. Jinx, an album of new recordings, was self-released on Nevoc in 2013. Jinx Dawson recruited a new line up of musicians in late 2016 – early 2017 in order to perform at Roadburn Festival in the Netherlands on April 20, 2017. This was Coven's first performance in Europe.[7]


The heavy metal community debates the extent Coven influenced the British band Black Sabbath, forefathers of heavy metal music.

  • Coven employed the sign of the horns in a musical and satanic context for the first time. Shortly thereafter Geezer Butler would employ that same sign, and it would eventually be popularized in the heavy metal scene by Ronnie James Dio when he joined the British band, at Butler's own suggestion.[8]
  • Coven's debut album features the song "Black Sabbath" and their bassist's name was Oz Osborne. Shortly after the release of that album, the British band decided to change their original band name, Earth, to Black Sabbath, and John Michael Osbourne decided that his stage name on the British band's debut would be Ozzy Osbourne.
  • The promotional poster for Black Sabbath's debut album is virtually identical to the previous promotional poster for Coven's debut album.[citation needed]
  • Lester Bangs of Rolling Stone described Black Sabbath's debut album as a "blend between Cream and Coven" and said they were "the English response to Coven".

While Coven apparently had an aesthetic impact on the British band, Tony Iommi has denied it, affirming that they only heard about Coven after the release of their debut album and certain details were mere coincidence.[9] It has been theorized that this refusal to admit their influence, which other important heavy metal pioneers such as King Diamond have admitted, was intended to prevent Black Sabbath from also being linked to the murders perpetrated by the Manson family. This alleged relationship put an end to Coven's career at the height of the media boom (the murders occurred in 1969 and the conviction took place in 1971) while the English band was publishing their seminal first three albums.[10][11]


Studio albums

Box sets

  • Half A Century Of Witchcraft (2021, Prophecy)

Five album set includes the first three Coven albums along with Rarities and Esoterica


  1. ^ Lawson, Dom (November 24, 2011). "Occult rock: do you believe in black magic?". The Guardian. Retrieved June 2, 2019.
  2. ^ "Coven – Biography". Billboard. Retrieved August 2, 2016.
  3. ^ "The Forgotten Mother of Metal Music and Birth of the "Devil's Horns"". Atomic Redhead. August 18, 2021. Retrieved June 15, 2023.
  4. ^ Trapp, Philip (April 21, 2021). "Where Did Metal's 'Devil Horns' Hand Gesture Really Come From?". Loudwire. Retrieved June 15, 2023.
  5. ^ "Have you heard this new album?" says a Strip hippie. "It's called Witchcraft. Destroys minds and reaps souls it says on the jacket...full of Black Mass stuff." Esquire, March 1970, page 119
  6. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 74. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  7. ^ "Coven". Roadburn Festival. Archived from the original on June 6, 2017. Retrieved June 20, 2017.
  8. ^ Moore, Sam (March 10, 2021). "Black Sabbath's Geezer Butler recalls showing Ronnie James Dio the 'devil horns' hand sign". NME. Retrieved June 15, 2023.
  9. ^ Ludwig, Jamie (October 25, 2017). "Shocking Omissions: Coven's 'Witchcraft Destroys Minds & Reaps Souls'". NCPR. Retrieved June 15, 2023.
  10. ^ "Track to Hell / La historia oficial y la blasfema: Black Sabbath y Coven". Track to Hell. February 24, 2020. Retrieved June 15, 2023.
  11. ^ DiVita, Joe (May 18, 2021). "The Band Too Satanic for Record Labels When Black Sabbath Weren't". Loudwire. Retrieved June 15, 2023.

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