Season of the Witch (song)

"Season of the Witch" is a song by Scottish singer-songwriter Donovan released in September 1966 on his third studio album, Sunshine Superman. The song is credited to Donovan, although sometime collaborator Shawn Phillips has also claimed authorship.[4] Because of a dispute with Donovan's record company, a UK edition with the song was not released until June 1967.

"Season of the Witch"
Song by Donovan
from the album Sunshine Superman
Released25 September 1966 (1966-09-25)
RecordedSeptember 1966
StudioColumbia, Hollywood, California
Songwriter(s)Donovan, Shawn Phillips (uncredited)
Producer(s)Mickie Most

Composition and recordingEdit

"Season of the Witch" was recorded at the CBS studios in Hollywood, California, where most of Sunshine Superman was recorded.[5] According to Donovan, he and Phillips wanted a "rock-combo sound" for the song and chose some local musicians from the local clubs.[5] They included Lenny Maitlin on keyboards, Don Brown on lead electric guitar, Bobby Ray on bass and "Fast" Eddie Hoh on drums.[5] Donovan played the second guitar part, as he explained in his autobiography:

I played a white Fender Telecaster Electric Guitar on "Witch," chunking down on the chord pattern, wailing a chilling chorus. A major seventh with an open G, to D 9th with a G-flat bass (Bert Jansch chord). The riff is pure feel.[5]

Donovan does not mention the involvement of Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones. At the time, the two future Led Zeppelin members were popular London session musicians and played on other Donovan sessions, including in 1968 for "Hurdy Gurdy Man". However, their exact contributions, if any, to "Season of the Witch" are unknown.[6]

Critical receptionEdit

In a song review for AllMusic, Lindsay Planer commented: "Few songs so perfectly reflect the dawn of the psychedelic pop era as aptly as Donovan's 'Season of the Witch' ... Both lyrically as well as musically, the languid and trippy contents project a dark foreboding atmosphere [and] a sort of sinister tale of paranoia and the paranormal".[6] John Bush called the song "easily [one of the two] the highlights of the album ... a chugging eve-of-destruction tale".[7]

Cover versionsEdit

Several artists have recorded their own renditions, including Julie Driscoll with Brian Auger and the Trinity (1967, Open); Al Kooper with Steve Stills (1968, Super Session); Terry Reid (1968, Bang Bang You're Terry Reid); Vanilla Fudge (1968, Renaissance); Hole (1997, My Body, the Hand Grenade); Dr. John with the Blues Brothers Band (1998, Blues Brothers 2000 soundtrack); Joan Jett and the Blackhearts (2004; Naked) and Lana Del Rey (2019, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark soundtrack).

Lana Del Rey versionEdit

On August 9, 2019, American singer Lana Del Rey released a cover of the song for the film Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019), which plays during the film's end credits. The song was produced by Jack Antonoff and Lana Del Rey.[8]

Chart performance for "Season of the Witch"
Chart (2019) Peak
France Downloads (SNEP)[9] 134
Scotland (OCC)[10] 81
US Rock Songs (Billboard)[11] 23
US Digital Songs (Billboard)[12] 36


  1. ^ O'Brien, Timothy J.; Ensminger, David (April 2, 2013). Mojo Hand: The Life and Music of Lightnin' Hopkins. University of Texas Press. p. 191. ISBN 978-0-292-75302-0.
  2. ^ Rolling Stone staff (November 8, 2001). Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll. Touchstone. p. 276. ISBN 978-0-7432-0120-9.
  3. ^ "The 200 Best Songs of the 1960s". Pitchfork. p. 4. Retrieved April 24, 2020.
  4. ^ Evans, Rush (July 25, 2012). "Follow the Ever-Changing Ballad of Shawn Phillips". Goldmine.
  5. ^ a b c d Leitch, Donovan (2007). The Autobiography of Donovan: The Hurdy Gurdy Man. St. Martin's Press. pp. 133–135. ISBN 978-0312364342.
  6. ^ a b Planer, Lindsay. "Donovan: 'Season of the Witch' – Review". AllMusic. Retrieved March 21, 2020.
  7. ^ Bush, John. "Donovan: Sunshine Superman [US] – Review". AllMusic. Retrieved March 21, 2020.
  8. ^ "Season of the Witch". Spotify. Retrieved April 9, 2021.
  9. ^ "Le Top de la semaine : Top Singles Téléchargés" (in French). SNEP. August 18, 2019. Retrieved August 18, 2019.
  10. ^ "Official Scottish Singles Sales Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved August 17, 2019.
  11. ^ "Lana Del Rey Chart History – Hot Rock Songs". Billboard. Retrieved August 19, 2019.
  12. ^ "Digital Song Sales August 24 2019". Billboard. Retrieved August 21, 2019.

External linksEdit