The supreme pop culture manifestation of magic-making for many, the Harry Potter phenomenon reaches its cinematic conclusion this month with the release of The Deathly Hallows, Part 2. Although the pop culture juggernaut certainly has served as a source of inspiration for those in the musical milieu in recent years (look no further than the emergence of J.K. Rowling-quoting “wizard rock” acts like Harry and the Potters), both the light and dark arts have infused certain pop music lyrics for decades. There were magic-referencing tunes to be found here and there going back to the birth of rock and earlier (Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ signature tune “I Put a Spell on You”, for instance), but wizardry truly found a home in music during the late ‘60s hippie heyday, when mind-expanding experimentalism and generational struggles resulted in a widespread of popularization of mysticism (be it Eastern, Celtic, or an indiscriminate hodgepodge of various sources) and the works of J.R.R. Tolkien among young people. Psychedelic rockers happily embraced magical concerns, and following in their footsteps their offspring in the heavy metal and progressive rock genres devoted themselves to otherworldly explorations of ancient powers and pagan tales on a fairly regular basis, up to and including referencing their favorite fantasy novels in their verses and on record sleeve artwork.
So with all that in mind, here’s five recommended tunes about virtuous spellcasters and evil conjurors, ranging from the 1960s to the 21st century. I have elected to skip over anything that’s directly informed by the Tolkien bibliography, for material available on that topic from the 1960s alone could spawn its own list (why director Peter Jackson never put any Led Zeppelin songs in his Lord of the Rings films, I’ll never understand). No, wizardry in general is the focus here, and whether it’s viewed as manifestation of light or a tool of wickedness, it’s bound to inspire recordings to try an capture a little of that sorcerous essence.