Time has caught up to Frank Loesser’s clever Baby, It’s Cold Outside, with some radio stations taking the 1949 hit off their playlists. Listening to the song or reading the lyrics in 2018, it’s easy to understand how it doesn’t pass the #MeToo test.
Chances are that it won’t be the last song once thought to be acceptable that will fall into disfavor. Check out these candidates from the rock era:
Every Breath You Take by the Police – a stalker’s checklist: I’ll be watching you, every move you make, every step you take, every single day, every word you say, etc. Everywhere. Always.
Romantic in 1983, perhaps, but creepy in 2018.
Under My Thumb by the Rolling Stones. Mick and the lads must have let their newfound superstardom go to their heads a bit. “The way she does just what she’s told…she’s the sweetest pet in the world…she’s under my thumb.” Even in 1966, that seemed unnecessarily domineering.
Of course, the Stones have proudly produced an entire setlist of songs that cross various lines of taste and propriety: Stupid Girl, Brown Sugar, Sympathy for the Devil, The Spider and the Fly, or Star Star (Google those lyrics…)
The Beatles didn’t try to keep up with the Stones in the depravity sweepstakes, but even John Lennon and Paul McCartney dipped their toes into these murky waters, John with Run For Your Life (“I’d rather see you dead, little girl, than to be with another man”—actually lifted from Elvis Presley’s Baby, Let’s Play House) and Paul with Getting Better (“I used to be cruel to my woman, I beat her and kept her apart from the things that she loved…”)
Then there’s the sub-genre of inappropriate male urges that fall into the older man/underage girl category, going all the way back to Steve Lawrence’s Go Away, Little Girl, the Police (again) with Don’t Stand So Close to Me, the Lovin’ Spoonful with Younger Girl (“I shouldn’t hang around acting like her brother; in a few more years they’ll call us right for each other”) and Gary Puckett and the Union Gap’s Young Girl (“My love for you is way out of line”).
We can’t let women entirely off the hook here. There’s been some enabling going on in pop music history, including Leslie Gore’s That’s the Way Boys Are (“When he treats me rough and he acts as though he doesn’t really care, well, I never tell him that he is so unfair…’cause that’s the way boys are…”), Joanie Sommer’s Johnny Get Angry (“Johnny get angry, Johnny get mad, Give me the biggest lecture I ever had … You know I love you, of course, let me know that you’re the boss…”) and Sandy Posey’s Born a Woman (“you’re born to be hurt, you’re born to be stepped on, lied to, cheated on and treated like dirt …to be his woman no price is too great to pay. Yes I was born a woman, I’m glad it happened that way.”)
The most infamous entry in the enabling category is the Crystal’s He Hit Me (And It Felt Like a Kiss). Written in 1962 by Carole King and Gerry Goffin, the title was taken verbatim from their babysitter, Little Eva Boyd, who was a victim of spousal abuse but claimed the abuse came from love. The song quickly fell into disfavor and King has since said she regrets writing it.
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