That Old Black Magic

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"That Old Black Magic"
That Old Black Magic Glenn Miller RCA.JPG
78 single
Single by Glenn Miller and His Orchestra with Skip Nelson and The Modernaires
B-side"A Pink Cocktail For a Blue Lady"
ReleasedJanuary 1943
RecordedJuly 15, 1942
GenreSwing, jazz, popular
LabelRCA Victor
Songwriter(s)Harold Arlen (music), Johnny Mercer (lyrics)

"That Old Black Magic" is a 1942 popular song written by Harold Arlen (music), with the lyrics by Johnny Mercer.[1] They wrote it for the 1942 film Star Spangled Rhythm, when it was sung by Johnny Johnston and danced by Vera Zorina.[2] The song was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1943 but lost out to "You'll Never Know".

It was first recorded by Gordon Jenkins and his Orchestra on July 9, 1942. Shortly thereafter, on July 26, 1942,[3] Judy Garland recorded her own version, which was released as a single in January 1943 – just after the movie's release on December 30, 1942. Five other recordings (also made in 1942) were released as singles within the next two weeks.[4]


The song was published in 1942 and has become an often-recorded standard, with versions that include the original single release by Glenn Miller, by 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.[5] Garland recorded the song for Decca Records in 1942. Mercer recalled wanting to write a song about magic, and while composing, asking Arlen to write more music so the song could go on longer, but that they still wrote the whole song in about three hours.[1] Billy Daniels recorded the song in 1949 and it became his trademark recording.


  • The Glenn Miller recording was released by RCA Victor Records as catalog number 20-1523-A, with "A Pink Cocktail For a Blue Lady" as the B side. The vocals were by Skip Nelson and the Modernaires. Glenn Miller recorded the song on July 15, 1942.[6] The release was Glenn Miller's last number-1 hit. It charted in 1943, spending 14 weeks on the Billboard magazine charts, peaking at position number 1 for the week of May 29.[7][8]
  • 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 a week at number 10 on the Billboard chart.[7]
  • The Sammy Davis Jr. recording was released by Decca Records as catalog number 29541. It charted in 1955 and spent six weeks on the Billboard charts, peaking at position number 16.[7]
  • 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 18 on the Billboard Hot 100. This particular version was performed on Sam and Friends by Sam and Kermit the Frog, Sam performing as Prima and Kermit dressing in drag and performing as Smith. This sequence became one of the most well-known episodes of Sam and Friends.
  • Bobby Rydell had his version released as a single on Cameo in 1961. It reached number 21 on the Hot 100.
  • Johnny Mathis recorded a disco rendition of this song for his 1979 studio album Mathis Magic.


  • As part of his album My Name is Allan, Allan Sherman sang a parody of this song called "That Old Back Scratcher".

Popular culture[edit]


  1. ^ a b Gilliland, John (1994). Pop Chronicles the 40s: The Lively Story of Pop Music in the 40s (audiobook). ISBN 978-1-55935-147-8. OCLC 31611854. Tape 1, side A.
  2. ^ Motion Picture Production Encyclopedia, 1952, p. 789. Best Original Song: "Black Magic," from Star Spangled Rhythm, Paramount.
  3. ^ The Judy Room: Discography
  4. ^ Billboard, December 5, 1942; Billboard, January 23, 1943; Billboard, January 30, 1943; Billboard, February 6, 1943.
  5. ^ Glenn T. Eskew (November 15, 2013). Johnny Mercer: Southern Songwriter for the World. University of Georgia Press. p. 161. ISBN 9780820333304.
  6. ^ "That Old Black Magic". Second Hand Songs.
  7. ^ a b c Whitburn, Joel (1973). Top Pop Records 1940-1955. Record Research.
  8. ^ Song artist 6 - Glenn