Magic Dance

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"Magic Dance"
Bowie MagicDance.jpg
Single by David Bowie
from the album Labyrinth
B-side"Within You"
ReleasedJanuary 1987[1]
Length5:13 (Album Version)
4:00 (Single Version)
LabelEMI America
Songwriter(s)David Bowie
David Bowie singles chronology
"When the Wind Blows"
"Magic Dance"
"Day-In Day-Out"

"Magic Dance" (also known as "Dance Magic") is a song written and recorded by David Bowie for the 1986 Jim Henson film Labyrinth. It was released as a single in limited markets worldwide in January 1987. Upon Bowie's death in 2016, the single version of "Magic Dance" reached #63 on the iTunes chart in the UK.[3]

Details and background[edit]

Bowie wrote and recorded five songs for Labyrinth, in which he also starred as Jareth, the king of the goblins.[4] "Magic Dance" was written for a scene in which Jareth and his goblins entertain a crying baby that has been wished away to them by the film's heroine, Sarah Williams. In the film, Bowie performs the number with Toby Froud as the baby, and 50 puppets and 12 costumed extras as the goblins.[5]

Described as a "simple dance number that's driven by electric bass and emphatic drums",[6] "Magic Dance" includes song lyrics that refer to the 1947 movie The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer starring Cary Grant and Shirley Temple, in which the two have a call and reply verse: "You remind me of a man." "What man?" "The man with the power." "What power?" "The power of hoodoo." "Who do?" "You do!". In "Magic Dance," "man" is replaced with "babe" and "hoodoo" with "voodoo".[6]

Bowie performed the baby's gurgles in the song recording, as backing singer Diva Gray's baby, the intended vocalist, wouldn't gurgle on the microphone.[1][6] During the movie's production, and in the end credits, the song was referred to as "Dance Magic."[1]


"Magic Dance" is the third track on the Labyrinth soundtrack album, released in July 1986 to coincide with the film's U.S. premiere.[7] In 1987 the song was released on 12" in limited markets, including the US. A single version was mixed but never released, and an edit of the "Dance Mix" (incorrectly labeled as the 'single mix') was released on the New Zealand edition of Best of Bowie (2002).[1] The single was not released commercially in the UK until the digital download version was made available in early 2007.


In 1986, "Magic Dance" peaked at #40 in New Zealand.[8] At the time of Bowie's death in 2016, "Magic Dance" was the 19th highest selling Bowie song digitally downloaded in the United Kingdom.[9]

Some critics have observed similarities between "Magic Dance" and Bowie's previous song "The Laughing Gnome", as both are constructed around traditional nursery rhymes and feature comic goblin/gnome voices.[1][10] Vice's Kamila Rymajdo considered "Magic Dance" to be "perhaps the most joyous song about magic, ever".[11]

Track listing[edit]

12": EMI America / V-19217 (US)[edit]

  1. "Magic Dance" (A Dance Mix) – 7:06
  2. "Magic Dance" (Dub) – 5:22
  3. "Within You" – 3:28

Download: EMI / i19217 (US)[edit]

  1. "Magic Dance" (Single Version/Edit of 7" Remix) – 4:00
  2. "Magic Dance" (12" Remix/Dance Mix) – 7:16
  3. "Magic Dance" (Dub) – 5:31
  4. "Magic Dance" (7" Remix) – 4:39


Cover versions[edit]

An electronic cover version by Kelley Polar appeared on the compilation album Life Beyond Mars: Bowie Covered in 2008.[12] Red Yarn covered the song on the 2016 Bowie tribute album made for children, Let All The Children Boogie: A Tribute to David Bowie.[13] Vitamin String Quartet released an instrumental cover version of the song on the 2019 album Geek Wedding Forever, Vol. 3.[14]


  1. ^ a b c d e Pegg (2016), "Magic Dance" in chap. The Songs from A to Z.
  2. ^ Magic Dance Discogs
  3. ^ "David Bowie - 'Magic Dance (Single Version)' British iTunes Chart Performance". Retrieved 20 July 2017.
  4. ^ Pegg (2016), "Labyrinth" in chapt. Stage and Screen
  5. ^ Des Saunders (director), Jim Henson (writer) (1986). Inside the Labyrinth (Televised Documentary). Los Angeles: Jim Henson Television.
  6. ^ a b c Block & Erdmann (2016), pp. 166-167
  7. ^ Pegg (2016), "Labyrinth" in chapt. The Albums
  8. ^ "David Bowie - Magic Dance (Song)". Retrieved 28 September 2020.
  9. ^ Myers, Justin (11 January 2016). "David Bowie's Official Top 40 Biggest Selling Downloads revealed!". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 26 August 2020.
  10. ^ O'Leary, Chris (12 February 2019). Ashes to Ashes: The Songs of David Bowie, 1976-2016. Watkins Media. ISBN 978-1-912248-30-8.
  11. ^ Rymajdo, Kamila (1 November 2017). "A Brief Timeline of Magic in Music". Vice. Retrieved 3 December 2019.
  12. ^ "Matthew Dear, Carl Craig, Joakim cover the Thin White Duke on a new Rapster compilation". Resident Advisor. 25 May 2008. Retrieved 4 September 2020.
  13. ^ Brennan, Collin (15 October 2016). "Ted Leo covers David Bowie's "Heroes" for all-ages cover album — listen". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved 4 September 2020.
  14. ^ "The Upside Down... The Aisle: Vitamin String Quartet's 'Geek Weeding Forever, Vol. 3' out March 8th". Shore Fire Media. 22 February 2019. Retrieved 22 August 2020.

External links[edit]