Frank Sinatra's "Witchcraft": The Majestic Song of Love
Released as a single by Frank Sinatra in 1957, “Witchcraft” is a song that is loved and still being loved after many decades by many people. It is not a trendy song that becomes a hit then falls, it is a song that will be loved for many more years. This popular song was made for Frank Sinatra’s single release, and later it was released on Sinatra’s album, “All the Way” in 1961. The composer of the song “Witchcraft” was Cy Coleman and lyrics were written by Carolyn Leigh. It was recorded at a studio in May and first appeared on ‘The Complete Capitol Singles Collection’ album by Capitol records. The song was originally published as an instrumental in the musical performance, “Take Five”. Then, when it was mixed and added with the power of Frank Sinatra’s voice, it became the legend. This song is well-known as it was on the Billboard singles chart for 16 weeks and topped off at #20. Also in 1959, “Witchcraft” was nominated for Song of the Year, Record of the Year and Best Male Vocal Performance at the 1st Grammy Awards which was a start of a highlight for Frank Sinatra’s reputation as many people argue him as the most influential singer of the century.
“Witchcraft” has the power to captivate listeners and make them fall in love with it by Frank Sinatra consuming the lyrics and delivering the meaning and affection by his version of music. When subtle melody and lyrics that well presents the emotion that people can accommodate with easily, especially love, are mixed with the power of Sinatra’s voice, it is hard to not get addicted to. People would listen to this kind of music over and over until the lyrics get in their head which also means they fall in love with it. The perfect harmony between these factors is highlighted by each influence containing a strong influence. “Witchcraft” begins with an instrumental presentation that constructs a mellow, slow and soft background. Before Sinatra starts singing the first lyrics, by the addition of sudden and short interruption of violin sound, the song starts off with much wittiness and tactfulness. As Sinatra starts his performance, he seems to be joining the song calmly and slowly while the background instrumental sounds become quieter so that his voice is well heard and emphasized. In the first short break after he sings the first ‘witchcraft’ word, suddenly instruments become louder adding the whimsical and bright atmosphere and highlighting the word itself. As Sinatra continues, his voice enhances the power with crescendo and inclusion of emotion.
Sinatra interacts well with the instrumentation by diverging from the instruments and giving it a chance to set the background ambiance. As the song goes close to the highlight, the instrument performance also gets highlighted with crescendo and Sinatra puts accents on the word ‘witchcraft’. In between the lyrics, instruments take place to become the protagonist of the song then suddenly diminishes back as Sinatra’s voice comes back. It almost sounds like the voice of Sinatra and instruments are performed in order. In addition, in Sinatra’s performance, instrumental accompaniment supports his voice to be heard and delivered correctly to the listeners. In this kind of music where both instruments and voice perform as a protagonist, they are like a duet where both will concede for each other for the perfect outcome. Like the part where he approaches the lyrics of ‘my heart says “Yes, indeed” in me’, he performs as how he would say “Yes, indeed” to his lover who is making Sinatra’s emotion to sink at the partner. At the end of the song, Sinatra tries to keep his gentleness with a hint of entertainment by singing ‘cause there’s no nicer witch then you’. Then the song ends with an instrumental performance that makes the listener continue to be in the emotion of Sinatra’s love story. As he sings to the accompaniment of piano, Sinatra performs the song as he is telling a person about his love story in a stage. The tune of the song is sweet yet powerful as multiple crescendo and decrescendo are performed frequently.
Sinatra has a talent in shifting from soft to loud and back to soft in his singing voice which sets the wistfulness of the music. The tempo of “Witchcraft” is fairly gentle and slow but there is definitely a swing in it and as Sinatra adds vibrato, the song becomes more expressive with the addition of accent for a dynamic attack on the emphasis of emotion on the word ‘witchcraft’. Sinatra’s voice is strong, yet deep, solid and flawless. And as this set of voice is merged in jazz music, it takes the listeners to the epic musical journey. Sinatra has a clear enunciation and a rich emotion and when these are joined to Sinatra drawing out a certain note for a long time, the sentiment is better delivered. Sinatra is clear in delivering the lines by enriching the tone with a lively and engaging performance which certainly adds the meaning to the song. Witchcraft is a practice of black magic with the use of spells. It usually contains negativity to the word itself but it can also have a meaning of fascinating attraction or charm. When the word is used in the song, it brings up the emotion of love that is too much which can be compared to witchcraft. In the song lyrics it indicates that even though witchcraft is forbidden, this emotion of love can only be a spell.
The most recent activity of this song was in the movie “Fifty Shades of Grey” as it was on the soundtrack. As the movie is based on crazy love, the choice of the song was accurate in delivering the meaning of the movie and the song. Sinatra recorded “Witchcraft” three times in a studio setting. After the first recording, Sinatra re-recorded in 1963 for his album “Sinatra’s Sinatra” and the last one as a duet with Anita Baker for the album “Duets” in 1993. When Sinatra sings a duet with Anita Baker, the song delivers a very different version. He doesn’t perform as powerful as the first recording and the ambiance of the song is totally changed not by Baker but by Sinatra. He lessens his powerful emotion and focuses more on the light and more bright atmosphere with Baker. The song became more joyful and elated by the wistfulness of Baker’s voice and Sinatra seems to try to be merged with the delighted background ambiance that Baker has set. In addition, “Witchcraft” was also performed on a television special “The Frank Sinatra Timex Show: Welcome Home Elvis” and has been recorded by many artists including Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald. Furthermore, “Witchcraft” was in a television show “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”. When one listens to other performers singing “Witchcraft”, it supports to determine how Sinatra is brining his particular interpretation of the song. Being different from others, Sinatra delivers the song as he is telling about his partner who he is fallen deep love and experiencing strong affection where he feels like it’s magic. He seems gentle yet enriched by his own emotion while his voice sounds flawless. However, Sinatra can deliver a song in various ways just by himself.
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