Tuesday, September 20, 2011

"(You're) Having My Baby" in retrospect



Paul Anka and Odia Coates - "(You're) Having My Baby" (1974, #1)

Paul Anka and Odia Coates's "(You're) Having My Baby" still has the power to stun listeners whether they knew or didn't know that it was once a #1 hit back in mid-'74. The much-maligned song seemed to have a lot of things going against it: biologically frank lyrics ("The seed inside you, baby/Do you feel it growing?"); a mellotron hook that's brazenly derivative of Elton John's "Daniel"; and a lyrical point of view mimeographed from Gloria Steinem's nightmares ("You could have swept it from your life/But you wouldn't do it"). What it had going for it, though, was subject matter that tapped into a national zeitgeist that had been unusually preoccupied with the subject of children for half a decade (see chapter one of my book if you're curious about this). The chauvinist aspect that ususally gets written about in reference to this song is really just a side story. "(You're) Having My Baby" is born of (so to speak), justified by, and a distinct relic of the early '70s preoccupation with children. It should be heard as a pop music culmination of those years. (The single's B side, "Papa," is a tribute to a devoted father that also helps to put the A side into truer perspective, while Odia Coates' absence from the single's artwork and her marginalized position in the Midnight Special clip linked to above certainly do not.)

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