Baby, It's Cold Outside
"Baby, It's Cold Outside" is a song with words and music by Frank Loesser. Although popular during the Christmas season, it is strictly a romantic winter song such as "Winter Wonderland" or "Marshmallow World".
Loesser wrote the duet in 1944 and premiered the song with his wife, Lynn Garland, at their Navarro Hotel housewarming party, and performed it toward the end of the evening, signifying to guests that it was nearly time to end the party. Garland considered it "their song" and was furious when Loesser sold the song to MGM.
The lyrics in this duet are designed to be heard as a conversation between two people, marked as "mouse" and "wolf" on the printed score; they have returned to the "wolf's" home after a date, and the "mouse" decides it is time to go home, but the "wolf" flirtatiously invites her to stay as it is late and "it's cold outside." The "mouse" wants to stay and enjoy herself, but feels she has to return home as her family will be wondering where she is. Every line in the song features a statement from the "mouse" followed by a response from the "wolf". Usually the "wolf" part is sung by a male and the "mouse" by a female.
Criticisms of the song stem from a reading of the lyrics not as the "mouse" wanting to stay and only putting up a token protest for the sake of appearance as supported by lyrics such as "The neighbors might think...", "My father will be pacing the floor", but instead as the "mouse" genuinely wanting to leave but being stopped by the "wolf" being coercive in his pleading with the mouse. Examples of questionable lyrics in this regard include, "I simply must go", "The answer is no", "I've got to go home". There is also the line "Hey, what's in this drink", which with current interpretation could be taken to sound suspiciously like the "mouse" has been drugged. Many movies, at the time the song was written, used a similar line to refer to someone behaving in a different manner than they expected and blaming it on the alcohol.
In 1948, after years of informally performing the song at various parties, Loesser sold its rights to MGM, which inserted the song into its 1949 motion picture, Neptune's Daughter. The film featured two performances of the song: one by Ricardo Montalbán and Esther Williams and the other by Red Skelton and Betty Garrett, the second of which has the roles of wolf and mouse reversed. These performances earned Loesser an Academy Award for Best Original Song.
The following versions were recorded in 1949:
- The recording by Dinah Shore and Buddy Clark was recorded on March 17 and released by Columbia Records as catalog number 38463. It first reached the Billboard Best Seller chart on May 6, 1949, and lasted 19 weeks on the chart, peaking at number four.
- The recording by Margaret Whiting and Johnny Mercer was recorded on March 18 and released by Capitol Records as catalog number 567. It first reached the Billboard Best Seller chart on May 6, 1949, and lasted 19 weeks on the chart, peaking at number four.
- The recording by Don Cornell and Laura Leslie with the Sammy Kaye orchestra was recorded on April 12 and released by RCA Victor Records as catalog number 20-3448. It first reached the Billboard Best Seller chart on June 24, 1949, and lasted 10 weeks on the chart, peaking at number 13.
- The recording by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Jordan was recorded on April 28 and released by Decca Records as catalog number 24644. It first reached the Billboard magazine Best Seller chart on June 17, 1949 and lasted seven weeks on the chart, peaking at number 17.
- A parody recording was made by Homer and Jethro with June Carter; it went to number 9 on the country charts and number 22 on the pop charts.
- Non-charting recordings were made:
Other recordings and performances
"Baby, It's Cold Outside" has been recorded by numerous other artists over the years. At least five different versions of the song have made at least one singles chart in the United States.
- Sammy Davis, Jr. and Carmen McRae recorded the duet in 1957 as part of their collaborative album, Boy Meets Girl.
- Dean Martin recorded the song for his 1959 album A Winter Romance. On this version the part of the "mouse" is sung by a female chorus.
- The 1961 Ray Charles/Betty Carter version is the first of two versions to chart on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart (1958 to present) and the only one for over forty-eight years; it peaked at number 91 in March 1962. This version was used in the 1990s on the program A Different World, in which a husband and wife lip sync to the recording as a means of flirtation.
- In 1979, Blossom Dearie recorded it with Bob Dorough (Needlepoint Magic - Daffodil Records)
- Ray Charles also sang this duet with Dionne Warwick at the 1987 Grammy Awards.
- Bette Midler and James Caan sang the duet in the 1991 film For the Boys, which was also included on the film's soundtrack.
- The song is also on Robert Palmer's 1992 album Ridin' High. He performs it with Carnie Wilson of Wilson Phillips.
- Vanessa Williams and rhythm and blues/jazz performer Bobby Caldwell featured the song on Williams' first holiday album, Star Bright.
- In 1999, Cerys Matthews and Tom Jones collaborated to record a version for Jones' album Reload. The single release peaked at #17 in the UK Singles Chart and was also released in the US on the CD Now That's What I Call Christmas!: The Signature Collection.
- Brian Setzer and Ann-Margret perform the song on the 2002 Brian Setzer Orchestra album Boogie Woogie Christmas.
- As part of the duo She & Him, Deschanel recorded the song with M. Ward in 2011 for their festive album A Very She and Him Christmas, this time as the "wolf".
- Liz Phair and Wheat recorded a version in 2003 that has been released digitally.
Two versions have also made the Hot Country Songs charts: Martina McBride in an overdubbed duet with Dean Martin, peaked at number 36, and a duet between Willie Nelson and Norah Jones reached number 55 in January 2010. However, perhaps the most famous country version is performed by Dolly Parton with Rod Stewart, which in 2004 also made it to number two on the US Adult Contemporary chart.
In 2007, Matt Belsante released a version in the album White Christmas.
Featured in popular culture
- On an episode of his radio show broadcast December 14, 1949, Bing Crosby sang the song in a comedic duet with actor James Stewart.
- Sigourney Weaver and Buster Poindexter performed a duet of the song on the first episode of the 12th season of Saturday Night Live in 1986.
- In 1990, Barry Manilow recorded the song in a duet with K.T. Oslin for Manilow's album Because It's Christmas; his version of the song in particular has become a popular version amongst radio stations whose format changes to Christmas music during the Holiday Season.
- Mayim Bialik and Ted Wass perform this song in an episode of Blossom.
Actress/singer Zooey Deschanel, who appeared in the 2003 film Elf, recorded the song with Leon Redbone for the film's soundtrack. In the movie itself, Deschanel sings part of the song with Will Ferrell while she is showering and he is sitting on the bathroom counter.
A version released by country music group Lady Antebellum in 2008 reached number 1 on the Bubbling Under Hot 100. The band performed the song live on NBC's Today Show the morning of Christmas Eve 2008. Lady Antebellum's original studio recording of the song was included the following year on the NOW That's What I Call A Country Christmas compilation two-disc CD set, released October 6, 2009.
Ryan Kelly of Celtic Thunder and Charley Bird perform the song on the group's Christmas album (2010).
Arizona rock band The Asphalt recorded a version of the song and released it to radio and for sale on the internet on November 1, 2010.
Other odd couples who have recorded the song are Al Hirt and Ann-Margret (on The Most Fabulous Christmas Album Ever and Beauty and the Beard) and Rod McKuen and Petula Clark (on the A 1940s Christmas album). McKuen also performed the song with Dusty Springfield on his "Christmas in New England" special in 1978, using identical instrumentals to the Clark performance.
In 2006, Leigh Nash recorded this song with Gabe Dixon for her Holiday EP Wishing For This. This version was also featured on a 2006 holiday compilation album called Do You Hear What I Hear? (from Nettwerk records).
In 2010, Chris Colfer and Darren Criss performed the song on the TV show Glee as Kurt Hummel and Blaine Anderson respectively in the episode "A Very Glee Christmas". It had been released the month before on the album Glee: The Music, The Christmas Album, and although the song was not separately released as a single, it nevertheless charted at number 57 on the Billboard Hot 100 after the show aired. The song was later performed by Cameron Mitchell and Lindsay Pearce on The Glee Project's fifth episode, "Pairability".
Sketch comedy group Key & Peele parodied the song in a sketch entitled Just Stay For The Night riffing on the song's creepy undertones with the male's persistence resulting in the female turning the tables on him and making him wish he would have let her leave.
On December 21, 2013, Saturday Night Live's Jimmy Fallon and Cecily Strong performed a spoof version in which he succeeds in talking her into a twelve-minute tryst, then immediately regrets it, with her singing about their future relationship and him trying to sing her out the door.
Reference in the writings of Sayyid Qutb
The book The America I Have Seen (1951) by Egyptian Islamist Sayyid Qutb describes a scene at a church dance Qutb attended in Greeley, Colorado: "The dance hall convulsed to the tunes on the gramophone and was full of bounding feet and seductive legs ... Arms circled waists, lips met lips, chests met chests, and the atmosphere was full of passion....And the Father chose. He chose a famous American song called 'Baby, It's Cold Outside,' which is composed of a dialog between a boy and a girl returning from an evening date." Qutb was a leading thinker of the Muslim Brotherhood and his book had a major impact on Islamist views concerning America.
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- Christmas songs that illustrate the worst in humanity by George Ouzounian
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- Baby It's Cold Outside, Astrid and John on YouTube
- Baby Its Cold Outside, Zach Braff and Donald Faison Holiday Video on YouTube.
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- Steyn, Mark, "Baby, He's Gold Inside", Wall Street Journal, February 2, 2008.