Is the lady the song refers to a Black woman? I think so, because she is obviously a voodoo practitioner of New Orleans; however, that’s not necessarily so. I don’t know the history of the song, but I’d venture that any female practitioner of voodoo or hoodoo could be known as a “dark lady.” In the former case, I think the song could be interpreted as being at least a little offensive, and given the time period in which it was written, it probably is; but honestly I don’t know who Cher is referring to. Since the song ends with the voodoo woman’s death, I think it’s safe to say that it’s made up rather than a true story, especially since it’s implied that the singer is the one who is to blame for the bodies on the floor!
The woman Cher sings about in “Dark Lady” is obviously rich and powerful, riding in a limousine and confident, the “fortune queen” of the area. The fact that she is brought down by an angry customer seems a bit off, given that she should be able to tell her own fortune, one would think—couldn’t she have avoided her own death by choosing another place to shack up, after all? Then again, maybe it was a suicidal operation. You never know, which makes this mysterious song deeper than some similar songs like it.
Chicago also comes to mind, regarding this song; I could easily see Cher in Zeta-Jones’s place, singing this song after killing her lover and his mistress—though perhaps not in the jazzy form used in the musical.
The real lure of the song, to me, is its enchanting music. Cher’s notes don’t vary much, making it one of her more one-dimensional songs; but the gypsy-like music in it makes it impossible to not dance—or even glance around the house for your kid’s castanets to do a quick dance with (I won’t admit to anything; you can’t make me!).
To listen to “Dark Lady” (castanets are up to you), click here.