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SONG REVIEW: COULD IT BE MAGIC (1976)

Written by Barry Manilow and Adrienne Anderson

Performed by Donna Summer from the album “A Love Trilogy” (1976)

During the memorable and energetic disco era of the 1970s, one genuine artist stood out and became its greatest diva. Her name was Donna Summer. In fact, she became known as the Queen of Disco, a title bestowed on her because she conquered and burned the disco charts more than any other disco artist. More importantly, she crossed over to the phenomenal pop charts with a string of top ten hits (including 6 #1 singles based on Record World) and albums (3 consecutive #1 double albums on the Billboard 200 Album Chart) to become one of the most successful artists in pop music history. As a testament to her huge contribution to music, she was posthumously inducted into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame in 2013.

Donna was not confined to just disco because her sheer talent as a gifted vocalist gave her the chance to shine in all genres possible – pop, disco, rhythm and blues, rock, gospel and standards. She could do many things with her powerful voice. She could be sweet, sexy and sultry one time (“Love To Love You,” “Try Me,” “Spring Affair”) and then hard-edged and powerful the next  (“Last Dance,” “Hot Stuff,” “Protection”) shifting effortlessly with aplomb. When the disco era ended, Donna’s career did not end like all the other disco artists. She survived disco and transcended the genre simply because her talent and versatility carried her through and enabled her to stay afloat and conquer other genres.

When Donna’s debut and breakthrough single “Love To Love You Baby” (US #1 Pop, Record World; US #1 Dance, Billboard) came out in 1976, people dismissed her as a one-hit wonder with no talent and who could not sing based on her falsetto vocal performance on that song. Quick to judge, they did not know who she really was. That she had a powerful theater background and a powerful voice. She was some sort of a mystery and Donna once said there was even this ridiculous rumor that she was once a man. Back then, I never really knew how Donna really looked like and if she had eyes because she never showed her eyes in her first two studio albums. They were closed. All I knew was that I adored her “A Love Trilogy” album.

Just a few months ago, this video of Donna appearing on German TV in 1976 and singing “Could It Be Magic” to promote her second album was shared by a friend in the Friends Unknown group site. It has since become of one my favorite live performances of Donna because of its sheer simplicity and power. That voice! Deviating from her sexy, sultry vocals which she used in the song’s studio version (which actually showcases her powerful vocals during the last portion of the song), Donna proved early on with this largely unseen live performance on German TV that she could really sing and actually had such a great, powerful voice. She was just waiting to unleash it.  In fact, people would not be able to distinguish that she is the same singer behind “Love To Love You Baby.”

The original ballad version of “Could It Be Magic” was written by Barry Manilow and Adrienne Anderson inspired by Chopin’s Prelude in C Minor. I remember Barry saying that he was blown away when he first heard Donna’s sexy, disco version of this song. In fact, after Donna’s version came out, Barry started discofying his interpretations of this song in his concerts. Here’s Donna’s powerful, live version.

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