Dark Lady Played Black Magic

47-years ago the number one song on American radio was Cher’s “Dark Lady.” Topping Billboard’s Hot 100 for the week of March 23-29th in 1974, this catchy pop-style murder-ballad captured the nation’s imagination and told the story of a “Dark Lady” who was the “fortune queen of New Orleans.”

The song was originally a much more light-hearted tune written by John Durrill (keyboardist for the American surf rock band The Ventures) but he was encouraged to give it a bleak finale by Cher’s producer Snuff Garrett. The grim lyrics took on some extra weight due to its release date coinciding with Cher filing for divorce from her longtime partner, Sonny Bono. At the time the high-profile couple’s separation was making headlines due to the popularity of their TV show so it is not surprising that the hit song, which recounts a relationship gone wrong, struck such a powerful chord with listeners. Its description of a card slinging fortune teller who plays with black magic also tapped into the occult zeitgeist of the times.


The cover art for Cher’s Dark Lady album, which contained 10 songs including the titular title track, features a striking black and white image of Cher with a black cat perched on her shoulder. The image evokes witches of yore and their cat familiars but instead of invoking fear she is seducing onlookers with her long dark locks and amorous stare. This was typical of the occult imagery of women that emerged in the wake of the sexual revolution suggesting Cher is empowered by her own mystique and magick.

There were two videos made for the song that aired during the last season of The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour. One featured Cher singing the song directly to the television audience while wearing a glittering black dress and matching hair accessory that made the pop diva appear particularly bewitching. The other was an animated cartoon created by John David Wilson that appealed to kids as well as adults’ and depicts a Cher-like character as the mysterious “Dark Lady.” I’ve shared them both below so you can enjoy them separately or together.

Dark Lady

Sung by Cher / Written by John Durrill

The fortune queen of New Orleans was brushing her cat in her black limousine
On the backseat were scratches from the marks of men, her fortune she had won
Couldn’t see through the tinted glass, she said, “Home, James” and he hit the gas
I followed her to some darkened room, she took my money, she said, “I’ll be with you soon”

Dark lady laughed and danced and lit the candles one by one
Danced to her gypsy music ’til her brew was done
Dark lady played black magic ’til the clock struck on the 12
She told me more about me than I knew myself

She dealt two cards, a queen and a three and mumbled some words that were so strange to me
Then she turned up a two-eyed jack, my eyes saw red but the card still stayed black
She said, “The man you love is secretly true to someone else who is very close to you
My advice is that you leave this place, never come back and forget you ever saw my face”

Dark lady laughed and danced and lit the candles one by one
Danced to her gypsy music ’til her brew was done
Dark lady played black magic ’til the clock struck on the 12
She told me more about me than I knew myself

So I ran home and crawled in my bed, I couldn’t sleep because of all the things she said
Then I remembered her strange perfume, and how I smelled, it was in my own room
So I sneaked back and caught her with my man, laughing and kissing ’til they saw the gun in my hand
The next thing I knew they were dead on the floor, dark lady would never turn a card up anymore

Dark lady laughed and danced and lit the candles one by one
Danced to her gypsy music ’til her brew was done
Dark lady played black magic ’til the clock struck on the twelve

Author: Kimberly Lindbergs

Writer, Researcher, Artist, & Eclectic Pagan ♑ Sun ♏ Rising ♏ Moon