“Do You Believe In Magic”

“Do You Believe In Magic”

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Story Behind the Song

John Sebastian
“Do You Believe In Magic”

Written by John Sebastian
Recorded by The Lovin’ Spoonful

"Do You Believe In Magic” is the first visible song I ever had. In a way, The Spoonful’s statement of purpose was in the song.

We were working at the Night Owl Café in Greenwich Village, on MacDougal Street. It was a “beatnik” club that usually had folk singers, poetry readings and coffee and it had a policy of no dancing. When we started our first weeks there, people in the audience began to jog around in the recesses in the back of the club where they wouldn’t be noticed. The beatniks in the front would snap their fingers. Me and Zally (Zal Yanovsky) would roll our eyes.

We talked about the fact that we were waiting for “our audience” to show up. We were so certain of our success. There was no false modesty in our band. A few nights after that conversation, I had an experience that inspired this song. We were singing and playing and I saw a young girl, about 16, dancing “our way” — in a less regimented style associated more with San Francisco at the time. Zally saw her as well and we nudged each other aware that, although it was just one girl, our audience had arrived!

Do you believe in magic in a young girl’s heart

How the music can free her, whenever it starts

In the next few days, I wrote the song. I began playing it on a slightly re-tuned autoharp electrified with a ukelele contact mike… It was very crude but it did the job!

In 1965, the song was released as the first single from our debut album Do You Believe In Magic. The song was well-received by the public and became a top ten hit on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #9.

It became a Top 40 Hot 100 hit again in 1978 when Shaun Cassidy recorded and released it as a single. Ironically, his older brother David Cassidy recorded it for a Christmas television advertising campaign almost three decades later. John Mellencamp is another artist who recorded it, in the ’80s.

More stories from our partners