Music Player

Friday, December 12, 2008

Track 4: You're the nicest Witch I know!

Composed by Carolyn Leigh & Cy Coleman
Performed by Frank Sinatra

The original womanizer, aka Ol' Blue Eyes, aka the Chairman of the Board, Frank Sinatra released the single "Witchcraft" in late 1957.   The song is fairly typical of Sinatra's jazzy, crooner style, but the lyrics are more striking than other songs, especially when I've got my rose-tinted feminist glasses on.  

The opening verse sets the tone; 
Those fingers in my hair,
That strips my conscience bare,
It's witchcraft. 

And I've got no defense for it,
The heat is too intense for it, 
What good would common sense for it do?
The effect Sinatra describes here is  the reason so women believe that through sexual temptation and manipulation, they can hold power over men.  In this situation, women do hold some form of power here; they inspire lust in men, and are the key to the satisfaction of lust.  The helplessness of the male in this situation is a result of that lust; and few would know better than Sinatra the power of lust to persuade a man. 

What really interests me about the song, other than the ideology it rigidly adheres to, (Women who look sexy can make men do anything, and the men can't help themselves) is the use of the word "witchcraft."  The term is used slightly jokingly, as indicated by the line later in the song, "There's no nicer witch than you."  However, the point that the term gets across, the indication that women have the power to cast spells over men and that men are defenseless to this magic, is rather telling.  

Consider the chorus of the song;
'Cause it's witchcraft, wicked witchcraft,
and although I know it's strictly taboo, 
When you arouse the need in me, 
My heart says "yes, indeed," in me, 
"Proceed with what you're leadin' me to"

It's such an ancient pitch, 
but one I wouldn't switch, 
'cause there's no nicer witch than you!
I'm a sucker for a blue-eyed crooner, I'll admit, but being called a witch wouldn't be a very effective tactic to seduce or impress me.  The connotations of "witch" are not exactly complimentary.  When I imagine a witch, I see green skin, facial warts, pointy black hats, broomsticks, and cauldrons.  Okay, so there is Glinda, the good witch from The Wizard of Oz, but she is an exception to the rule. 

This song uses the term "witch" to stand in for the "woman" or perhaps "attractive women," a substitution that is degrading to both men and women in this case.  Women described as witches are temptresses, leading men astray.  Men who fall prey to such women are helpless to their spells, unable to refuse the siren's call, which, when you try to escape the all pervasive ideological belief that this is a "natural" phenomenon, is pretty pathetic.  

This song was popular in the late 1950's, a long time ago in terms of popular culture.  The feminist movement was in it's infancy, and most people weren't aware of the misogynistic ideology prevalent during those times.  However, even with the rise of feminism and the dramatic changes in popular culture since Sinatra's heyday, I think the ideology presented by song still holds true.  

I mean, women are still practicing this version of witchcraft, but hems have just risen about a foot, and we're a little more forward about things now; rather than a "sly, come-hither stare," we have pole-dancing.  Both of which get the same message across, really.    

No comments: