Top 10 Halloween Songs

Halloween
Halloween. Photo by Straublund Photography / Getty Images
01
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10. Rihanna - "Disturbia" (2008)

Rihanna Disturbia
Rihanna - "Disturbia". Courtesy Def Jam

"Disturbia" was written by Chris Brown and his songwriting and production team. However, they decided "Disturbia" might be better suited to a female singer. Rihanna liked the way the song spoke about anxiety and confusion. With the addition of unique vocal effects, "Disturbia" took on a slightly creepy vibe. It hit #1 on the US pop chart and earned a Grammy Award nomination for Best Dance Recording.

The accompanying music video for "Disturbia" digs deeper into the eerie atmosphere of the song by depicting a surrealistic sort of torture chamber. The clip was directed by long-time Rihanna collaborator Anthony Mandler. Among the elements included are a tarantula, Rihanna sitting on a commanding throne, and quick glimpses of bondage imagery. The clip received positive comments from critics.

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02
of 10

9. Ramones - "Pet Sematary" (1989)

Ramones Pet Sematary
Ramones - "Pet Sematary". Courtesy Sire

The Ramones wrote and recorded "Pet Sematary" for the movie of the same name based on the Stephen King novel. It became one of the biggest hit singles by the punk legends reaching the top 5 on the modern rock chart. The author is reportedly a big Ramones fan and he invited the group to his home in Maine when they were touring. While they were visiting, he gave them a copy of the Pet Sematary novel, and Dee Dee Ramone quickly wrote a song about it.

The accompanying music video was filmed in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in historic Sleepy Hollow, New York, which was made legendary in Washington Irving's story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." There are cameo appearances by Debbie Harry and Chris Stein of Blondie in the music video.

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03
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8. Rockwell - "Somebody's Watching Me" (1984)

Rockwell Somebody's Watching Me
Rockwell - "Somebody's Watching Me". Courtesy Motown

"Somebody's Watching Me" was the debut single by Rockwell, aka Kennedy William Gordy, a son of Motown founder Berry Gordy. Both Michael Jackson and Jermaine Jackson are featured singing backup on the song. The song was a big success climbing all the way to #2 on the pop singles chart in the US. It also reached #3 on the dance chart. Unfortunately, Rockwell was unable to repeat the commercial success of "Somebody's Watching Me." His follow up single "Obscene Phone Caller" peaked at #35 on the pop chart. Singles from two more albums failed to make a significant impact on pop or R&B charts.

The music video for "Somebody's Watching Me" is a paranoid fantasy that references Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. In the clip, he is haunted by the figure of a man who turns out to just be the mailman. Rockwell is relieved until he realizes the mailman is a zombie.

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04
of 10

7. Donovan - "Season Of the Witch" (1966)

Donovan
Donovan. Photo by David Redfern / Redferns

British singer Donovan wrote and recorded "Season of the Witch" for his third album Sunshine Superman. Among the session players on the recording was Jimmy Page who later became a legend as lead guitarist for Led Zeppelin. Reportedly, the song originated from a riff that Donovan built up at the house of Scottish folk musician Bert Jansch and then played around with it for seven hours. "Season Of the Witch" was produced by Mickie Most who worked on a string of hit British Invasion records.

"Season of the Witch" was included on the soundtrack for Tim Burton's film adaptation of Dark Shadows. It has also been covered by a wide range of recording artists including the duo of Stephen Stills and Al Kooper on their 1968 album Super Session. The group Vanilla Fudge recorded a cover of "Season Of the Witch" and took it to #65 on the pop singles chart in 1968.

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05
of 10

6. Ray Parker, Jr. - "Ghostbusters" (1984)

Ghostbusters Soundtrack
Soundtrack - Ghostbusters. Courtesy Arista

Ray Parker, Jr. was approached to write and record a theme song for the movie Ghostbusters with only a few days to come up with an idea. Influenced by late night TV commercials, he looked at the song as a sort of commercial jingle promoting the Ghostbusters service of the movie. Huey Lewis of Huey Lewis and the News sued Ray Parker, Jr. for similarities between "Ghostbusters" and "I Want a New Drug." The case was settled out of court.

Two years before "Ghostbusters," Ray Parker, Jr. reached the top 5 on the pop singles chart as a solo artist with "The Other Woman." "Ghostbusters" became his first #1 pop hit. It also earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Song.

The accompanying music video features Ray Parker, Jr. as a ghost haunting a woman played by Cindy Harrell. The clip also contains footage from the film and cameos from a wide range of celebrities including Irene Cara, Melissa Gilbert, Al Franken, and Carly Simon.

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06
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5. Mike Oldfield - "Tubular Bells Pt. 1" (1973)

Mike Oldfield Tubular Bells
Mike Oldfield - Tubular Bells. Courtesy Virgin

The opening theme from Mike Oldfield's debut album Tubular Bells is considered by some to be among the creepiest recordings of all time due to its inclusion as the main theme for the soundtrack to the classic horror film The Exorcist. The album Tubular Bells was the first released on the new label Virgin Records. Tubular Bells was a #1 smash hit album in the UK. Its success helped launch the label as a major player in British pop music. The edit from the soundtrack to The Exorcist was released in the US as a single and became a top 10 pop hit.

The album was recorded by Mike Oldfield when he was only 19 years old. He played most of the instruments and put together the layering of sounds through a studio overdubbing technique inspired by the work of the Beatles. Tubular Bells remained on the British album chart for an astounding 280 weeks, the 12th longest period of any album. It first reached the chart in July 1973 and did not hit #1 until October 1974. The album earned Mike Oldfield a Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Composition.

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07
of 10

4. Rocky Horror Picture Show Soundtrack - "Time Warp" (1975)

Rocky Horror Picture Show Soundtrack
Soundtrack - Rocky Horror Picture Show. Courtesy Ode

For many fans, the song "The Time Warp" and the accompanying dance is the climactic moment of the film The Rocky Horror Picture Show even though it occurs early in the movie. The characters Riff-Raff, Magenta, and Columbia all sing verses of the song. Dancing along is one of the key audience participation activities at midnight film showings of the cult hit. In 1980, "The Time Warp" was released as a single in Australia and climbed to #3 on the pop chart. The soundtrack album for The Rocky Horror Picture Show was originally released along with the film in 1975, but it was unsuccessful. It finally reached a chart peak of #49 after renewed interest in the film.

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08
of 10

3. DJ Jazzy Jeff - Fresh Prince - "Nightmare On My Street" (1988)

DJ Jazzy Jeff Nightmare On My Street
DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince - "A Nightmare On My Street". Courtesy Jive

"Nightmare On My Street" is included on the album He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper which turned DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince into stars. Released just two months before Halloween 1988, it became a top 15 pop hit and reached the top 10 on the dance chart. The song references the popular Nightmare on Elm Street film series and was the subject of a copyright infringement lawsuit by the filmmakers. In response to the lawsuit, the record label destroyed a video filmed to promote the song. The litigants eventually settled out of court. Vinyl copies of the album He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper subsequently carried disclaimer stickers that said the song "is not authorized, licensed, or affiliated with the Nightmare on Elm Street films.

DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince returned to the upper reaches of the mainstream pop chart in 1991 with their biggest hit, the #4 charting "Summertime." They had one more big hit "Boom! Shake the Room" before Will Smith aka the Fresh Prince became a solo star.

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09
of 10

2. Bobby "Boris" Pickett - "The Monster Mash" (1962)

Bobby Boris Pickett Monster Mash
Bobby "Boris" Pickett - "Monster Mash". Courtesy Garpax

The Halloween classic "The Monster Mash" was born out of a live performance in which aspiring actor and singer Bobby Pickett did an imitation of horror legend Boris Karloff on stage. He then wrote "The Monster Mash" with Leonard L. Capizzi and recorded it with producer Gary S. Paxton for release on the latter's record label Garpax. The Crypt-Kickers credited on the record were the studio musicians on the recording. The group included Gary Paxton, producer of "Alley Oop," a #1 hit for the Hollywood Argyles, and Leon Russell, who later became a legend, and member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, through his work with artists like Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton.

"The Monster Mash" hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for Halloween 1962. It returned to the top 10 in 1973. Bobby "Boris" Pickett recorded a Christmas follow up titled "Monsters Holiday" which reached #30 on the pop chart. 

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10
of 10

1. Michael Jackson - "Thriller" (1982)

Michael Jackson Thriller
Michael Jackson - "Thriller". Courtesy Epic

In addition to being the title song from the bestselling album of all time, Michael Jackson's "Thriller" has become a Halloween classic. According to reports on the recording sessions, producer Quincy Jones' wife, actress Peggy Lipton, knew horror legend Vincent Price, and suggested asking him to record the spoken word section of the song.

An expanded 13-minute long music video was created to accompany the song. It was directed by John Landis, who was known for directing the hit movie An American Werewolf in London. It became the first ever music video selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.

"Thriller" reached #4 on the pop singles chart becoming the record-setting seventh song form the album Thriller to hit the top 10. The music video earned six nominations at the 1984 MTV Video Music Awards and it won three including Best Choreography and Best Overall Performance. The clip is often included in lists of the best music videos of all time.

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