“Black Magic Woman” is a song written by British musician Peter Green, which first appeared as a Fleetwood Mac single in various countries in 1968, subsequently appearing on the 1969 Fleetwood Mac compilation albums English Rose (US) and The Pious Bird of Good Omen (UK), as well as Vintage Years. In 1970, it became a hit by Santana, as sung by Gregg Rolie, reaching No. 4 in the US and Canadian charts, after appearing on their Abraxas album. In 2005 the song was covered by ex-Thin Lizzy guitarist Snowy White on his album The Way It Is. In 1996, the song was also covered by Gary Hoey on his album Bug Alley.
Although not as popular as Santana’s arrangement two years later, “Black Magic Woman” nevertheless became a fairly popular blues rock hit peaking at No. 37 in the UK Singles Chart. It was featured in Fleetwood Mac live set-lists even after Green had left the band, when it was often sung by Danny Kirwan, and during concerts in the early 1970s it would form the basis for long mid-concert jams. The song has the same chord structure, guitar breaks, and even a similar melody to Green’s “I Loved Another Woman” from the band’s 1968 debut album, and may have evolved out of the earlier song.
Set in the key of D minor, the verse follows a twelve bar chord progression alternating between D minor7, A minor7, and G minor7, and the instrumentation consists of vocals, two guitars, bass guitar and drums. It is homophonic, the voice and lead guitar taking the lead roles. The song is set in common time (4/4), with the rhythm “pushing” on the upbeat, then breaking into a shuffle beat root -chord jam after the final verse.
D minor 7 | D minor 7 | A minor 7 | A minor 7 | D minor 7 | D minor 7 | G minor 7 | G minor 7 | Dm 7 – C 7 | Bb 7 – A 7 | D minor 7 | D minor 7
The original recording by Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac featured guitars that were slightly below standard pitch, probably due to them being tuned to a piano or another guitar in the recording studio. For most performances, it is played in standard, although to create a performance more faithful to the original recording, the low E string could be tuned down to D.
The haunting D minor triad from the 17 fret is played out on one guitar, and a slide guitar playing the same chord is faded in over the top.
Santana’s version, recorded in 1970, is a medley with Gábor Szabó’s 1966 instrumental “Gypsy Queen”, a mix of jazz, Hungarian folk and Latin rhythms. The song became one of Santana’s staples and one of their biggest hits, with the single reaching number four on the Billboard Hot 100 in January 1971. Abraxas reached number one on the charts and hit quadruple platinum in 1986, partially thanks to “Black Magic Woman”.
“Gypsy Queen” was omitted from 1974’s Santana’s Greatest Hits album, even though radio stations usually play “Black Magic Woman” and “Gypsy Queen” as one song.
While the song follows the same general structure of Peter Green’s version, also set in common time, in D minor and using the same melody and lyrics, it is considerably different, with a slightly altered chord pattern (Dm7– Am7–Dm7–Gm7–Dm7–Am7–Dm7), occasionally mixing between the Dorian and Aeolian modes, especially in the song’s intro. A curious blend of blues, rock, jazz, 3/2 afro-Cuban son clave, and “Latin” polyrhythms, Santana’s arrangement added conga, timbales and other percussion, in addition to organ and piano, to make complex polyrhythms that give the song a “voodoo” feel distinct from the original.
The introduction of the song, which was adapted from Szabó’s “Gypsy Queen”, consists of simple hammer-ons, pull-offs and slides on the guitar and bass, before moving into the introductory guitar solo of “Black Magic Woman.” After the introductory solo, which follows the same chord progression as the verse, the song moves into an eight-bar piano solo on D minor, and proceeds to two verses sung by keyboardist Gregg Rolie. Two verses of guitar solo follow the two sung verses, which are then succeeded by another verse, before moving into a modified version of the “Gypsy Queen” section from the beginning of the song to end the piece.
There is also a single edit that runs for 3:15. On some radio versions the piano solo is omitted, and “Gypsy Queen” is sometimes omitted. Other longer versions have since been released, including one which runs for 8:56.