Artist: Eartha Kitt
Presentation, March 3, 2015: “Santa Baby”
Presenter (Michael Hizny):
The holiday classic Santa Baby was released in late 1953. Credit for writing the hit song goes to Joan Javits, Philip Springer, and Tony Springer. Eartha Kitt, the version that is most popular, originally recorded and performed the hit. The song was recorded in July 1953 and released several months later for the holiday season. Santa Baby is part of the jazz genre, incorporating heavy tones of blues. It was distributed and gained popularity via the radio, most notably on the Moon Dog Show with Allen Freed. The song also rose to the top of the charts by deviating from the normal, nostalgic holiday song trend. Most likely, the song was intended for people to sing or play, rather than dance to. While Eartha Kitt’s version is still the most popular, such artists as Marilyn Monroe, Madonna, and Taylor Swift have done their own covers.
"Santa Baby by Eartha Kitt" Santa Baby by Eartha Kitt Songfacts. Web. 2 Mar. 2015.
Contextualizer (Julia Binder):
In the 1950s, it was the races of the audience, which predominantly determined, which genres of music found their way to the tops of the music charts. The Rhythm and Blues Charts were dominated by African American singers who were singing to an African American audience in urban centers in the south. American Pop Charts were predominantly influenced by the remnants of the Big Band Era. The Big Band Era was a mixture of jazz music and the Swing era involving the use of percussion, brass and woodwind instruments. Singers such as Doris Day, Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole were all associated with this musical era. Disc Jockey Alan Freed was most famously known for his radio show the “Moondog Show” where he played music with an up-temp rhythm and blues hints. Freed was able to differentiate himself from other jockey’s by aiming to reach both white and black teenagers and not simply an African Americans audience for R&B music. It was Allen Freed who came up with the term Rock n’ Roll. Santa Baby then and now is listened to during the Christmas and Holiday season. The song makes it evident that people were moving into a world, which revolved around commercialism This was a big transition as the country was fresh out of the Great Depression. At this time, Eartha Kitt was considered to be the first African American sex symbol and the equivalent of Marilyn Monroe. Marilyn Monroe would go on to later cover this song. Kitt has said that she sung this song to make fun of herself as she liked to call herself “the original material girl” as she often was involved with rich and famous men.
"1950's Music Decade Overview." Rockmusictimeline.com. Rock Music Timeline, 2010-2015. Web. 01 Mar. 2015. <http://www.rockmusictimeline.com/1950s.html>.
"Eartha Kitt - Santa Baby Like No Other." Vintage Allies. Vintage Allies, 14 Nov. 2011. Web. 1 Mar. 2015. <http://www.vintageallies.com/1950s/eartha-kitt-santa-baby-like-no-other.html>.
Connector (Stephen Cohen):
Looking at the song “Santa Baby,” we can see how it fit into the time in which it was written, in the early 1950s. Most importantly, it emphasizes the trend toward more materialistic lifestyles that began following the Great Depression and rose through the 1950s and even on until today. This song was actually written as a satire, making fun of the extravagant tastes of women during the 1950s. In the song, she asks for very extreme gifts from Santa: for example, a yacht, suggesting that it wasn’t that much to ask of him. She also asks for a brand-new convertible, a house (with rent payments), the deed to a platinum mine, and finally, a ring. These extremely expensive gifts that she is asking for are more than people would generally ask for, but it still gets the point across about the extravagance that was starting to come with Christmas. Along with these extravagant wishes, she is obviously trying to flirt with and seduce Santa Claus, calling him "baby" and "cutie." This shows a trend away from traditional Christmas music toward newer, more risque sounds. Another example of a song like this is "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus." The popularity of these songs goes to show that people were willing to break away from old-fashioned Christmas traditions, which is also evident in the giving of increasingly more extravagant gifts. It's also important to note that Eartha Kitt, the original singer of Santa Baby, was considered to be one of the first African-American sex symbols, and this song was also covered by another sex symbol of the time, Marilyn Monroe, as well as Madonna in the 1980s. Additionally, this song was mainly distributed on the radio, especially on the popular show hosted by DJ Alan Freed. This program was also important to the introduction of rock’n’roll music throughout the 1950s. As a result, Santa Baby became a popular Christmas song, which is somewhat ironic considering that it is making fun of what Christmas was becoming.
Based off of the social norms at the time, how do you think people reacted to Eartha Kitt’s sexualizing of her Christmas song, after moving away from song’s which represented nostalgia and children at the time?
Discussion: -Samantha mentioned how at the time people must have liked it for it to gain such popularity and must have found it refreshing to hear something new
Do you believe this song represents the desires of the typical consumer at the time and how does it present the 1950s consumer to a modern day viewer?
Discussion: -Cassidy mentioned that the typical 1950s consumer probably viewed the song just as the modern viewer does, as a comedic viewpoint of unrealistic expectations
"Rewind The Fifties (Fifties Music): The 1950's Songs of Eartha Kitt." Rewind The Fifties (Fifties Music): The 1950's Songs of Eartha Kitt. Web. 02 Mar. 2015.