Pretty Baby (song)
"Pretty Baby" is a song written by Tony Jackson during the Ragtime era. The song and lyrics apparently referred to one of Jackson's male lovers. The song was remembered as being prominent in Jackson's repertory before he left New Orleans in 1912, but was not published until 1916.
The background as to how the song came to be published has been confused over the years but the truth appears to be that composer Egbert Van Alstyne and lyricist Gus Kahn were writing partners and whilst Egbert was Chicago manager of music publishers, Jerome H. Remick & Company, they heard Tony Jackson singing the song one evening at a Chicago nightspot. They liked the melody but the lyrics were unsuitable for mass consumption. So Jackson was paid $250 for the rights to the tune and Kahn re-wrote the lyrics with Van Alstyne adding a verse, which he took from one of his earlier songs which had not been successful. Jackson's name was included on the sheet music.
The song was quickly interpolated into the Broadway show "A World of Pleasure" (Oct 14, 1915 - Jan 22, 1916) and was then used in the show The Passing Show of 1916 (Jun 22, 1916 - Oct 21, 1916) where it was sung by Dolly Hackett. In London, the song was included in the musical Houp La! which opened on 23 November 1916 and it was sung by Gertie Millar.
Other notable recordings
- 1930 Louisiana Rhythm Kings - recorded on January 27, 1930 as part of a series of hot instrumental versions of older songs by this Brunswick studio group, usually with Red Nichols as director.
- 1947 Bing Crosby recorded December 3, 1947 with John Scott Trotter and His Orchestra.
- 1948 Doris Day
- 1949 Al Jolson - recorded May 17, 1949 for Decca Records.
- 1966 Eddie Fisher - included in his album I Love You.
- 1957 Dean Martin - included in his album Pretty Baby.
- 1960 Brenda Lee for her album Grandma, What Great Songs You Sang!.
- 1929 Is Everybody Happy?
- 1930 Mammy - sung by Al Jolson.
- 1935 Ruggles of Red Gap - it was sung in a charming little skit by Leila Hyams, (with Roland Young on the drums).
- 1939 Rose of Washington Square - performed by Al Jolson
- 1943 Coney Island - performed by Betty Grable, Harry Masters and male quartet
- 1944 Broadway Rhythm - sung by Kenny Bowers, Gloria DeHaven, and Charles Winninger.
- 1948 Sitting Pretty - sung by a chorus during the opening credits and at the end.
- 1950 Young Man with a Horn - played during the scene with the hula dancer.
- 1949 Jolson Sings Again - sung by Al Jolson
- 1951 I'll See You in My Dreams - sung by Danny Thomas and played often throughout the picture.
- 1953 The Eddie Cantor Story - sung by Eddie in the Midnight Frolics.
- 1978 Pretty Baby - performed by Antonio Fargas and also played when the kids are in the barn.
In popular culture
In 2008, British soap opera EastEnders long-time character Dot Branning had the show's first monologue episode, during which she starts singing "Pretty Baby" and telling the tape recorder (for her sick husband, Jim Branning) about her childhood, saying the song was always sung for her as a child by her beloved uncle.
Here is the way early recording star Billy Murray covered it in 1916:
- You ask me why I'm always teasing you.
- You hate to have me call you "Pretty Baby."
- I really thought that I was pleasing you,
- For you're just a baby to me.
- Your cunning little dimples and your baby stare,
- Your baby talk and baby walk and curly hair,
- Your baby smile
- Makes life worthwhile.
- You're just as sweet as you can be.
- Your mother said you were the cutest kid.
- No wonder, Dearie, that I'm wild about you
- And all the cunning things you said and did.
- Why, I love to fondly recall.
- And just like Peter Pan it seems you'll always be
- The same sweet cunning little baby dear to me,
- And that is why
- I'm sure that I
- Will always love you best of all.
- Everybody loves a baby that's why I'm in love with you,
- Pretty baby, pretty baby,
- And I'd like to be your sister, brother, dad and mother too,
- Pretty baby, pretty baby.
- Won't you come and let me rock you in my cradle of love
- And we'll cuddle all the time.
- Oh, I want a lovin' baby, and it might as well be you,
- Pretty baby of mine,
- Pretty baby of mine.
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- Edwards, Bill. "Rag Piano.com". ragpiano.com. Retrieved September 13, 2017.
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- Whitburn, Joel (1986). Joel Whitburn's Pop Memories 1890-1954. Wisconsin, USA: Record Research Inc. p. 331. ISBN 0-89820-083-0.
- "Red Hot Jazz". redhotjazz.com. Retrieved September 13, 2017.
- "A Bing Crosby Discography". BING magazine. International Club Crosby. Retrieved September 13, 2017.
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- "The International Al Jolson Society". jolson.org. Retrieved September 13, 2017.
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- Al Jolson singing "Pretty Baby" from Rose of Washington Square (1939) on YouTube (audio only)
Billy Murray Anthology: The Denver Nightingale, Archeophone Records, 2002