You’re probably aware of the sudden controversy over the lyrics to the song “Baby It’s Cold Outside”. What’s funny to me is that I thought about the creepiness of the song a couple of years ago. I also wrote the piece below, which is along the same lines, a few of months ago. I decided not to post it because I didn’t want to upset anyone in this #MeToo moment. But now, I think maybe we can talk about it.
I was listening to a Larry Graham tune the other day. He’s very talented and he was at the height of his career during my salad days. He was one of the original members of Sly and the Family Stone. He also had his own group for a minute, Graham Central Station, and a successful solo career. Some of you probably remember him for his song, “One in a Million”. (That was played one and a million times at weddings back in the day.) I used to dance to his music and he was one of my faves. A couple of his songs still loop in my head. I was thinking about one of the ones that comes up occasionally in my mind’s playlist. The song is Sooner or Later, from the album of the same name. Graham is a bass player with an beautiful deep, sexy voice. I was enjoying the memory of his voice on that particular song when it hit me that the lyrics sound strange in 2018. I don’t know why I didn’t notice before. Like a lot of folks, I guess I’m more aware and sensitive these days.
The lyrics start out all right, your basic “I love you” tune. But a while into it, it starts to feel uncomfortable.
“You can’t run away from me. Oh baby, sooner or later I’m gonna make your mine…I know it’s just a matter of time.”
What? Umm…that’s vaguely intimidating. He goes on to say that the girl’s the sweetest in the world and he,
“just can’t let you go. Oh, oh you can’t run away from me.”
Ok, if a woman heard someone say that today it’d be a red flag, right? He starts riffing toward the end,
“You’re gonna be my darlin baby, ain’t no maybe…I’m gonna make you mine forever…”
What does that mean? Will there be ropes and duct tape involved?
“… we’ll be together…Although it might take time I’m gonna make you mine.
C’mon now, that doesn’t sound slightly threatening? Right now, it sounds like he’s planning on stalking.
Obviously, I’m not taking the song too seriously. But when I think of the number of times I sang along to Sooner or Later back then and wished my boyfriend (my husband three years later) would say those things to me, I gotta admit I’m a little embarrassed. I know the song is a product of its time. It was 1982. Tootsie and Victor/Victorious were in theaters so we had at least started to think outside the traditional lines of sex and gender roles but on the other hand Richard Dawson was still kissing the female contestants of Family Feud on the lips. I also know that when I was young, women my age didn’t think so much about the ramifications of men’s attention. We didn’t analyze the positive or negative connotations of that attention. We were more inclined to ask, “Why isn’t he giving me attention?” than “What does his attention mean?” I’m glad young women ask now. And if that questioning means we have to re-examine beloved chestnuts like “Baby It’s Cold Outside”, maybe that’s a good thing. We can think about it while still listening and enjoying. I’m going to continue listening to Graham’s song cuz I like it. Maybe I just won’t sing along.