Tuesday, September 20, 2011

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

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 this Midnight Special clip certainly do not.)

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