Pretty Baby (song)
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"Pretty Baby" is a song written by Tony Jackson during the Ragtime era. 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 1916 sheet music credits Jackson along with Gus Kahn and Egbert Van Alstyne. It is not clear what their actual role in developing Jackson's tune was; Tin Pan Alley practice at the time often gave partial author credit to staff writers to keep more of the royalty payments within the company. However Kahn may have rewritten some of Jackson's lyrics (the original was said to have been rather risque), and Van Alstyne may have had a hand in arranging the song's bridge. The song and lyrics apparently referred to one of Jackson's male lovers.
In 1930, the song was recorded as part of a series of hot instrumental versions of older songs by the Brunswick studio group "Louisiana Rhythm Kings", usually with Red Nichols as director. In 1935, it was sung in a charming little skit by Leila Hyams, (with Roland Young on the drums) in "Ruggles of Red Gap". The song was also used as the theme song for the popular 1948 20th Century-Fox comedy "Sitting Pretty".
The song has been covered by many singers, including Al Jolson, Judy Garland (with Al Jolson and with Bing Crosby), Doris Day (in Young Man with a Horn), Dean Martin (the title song to his album Pretty Baby) and Brenda Lee. The song also inspired the 1978 Louis Malle film Pretty Baby, on whose soundtrack it appears.
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.
Billy Murray Anthology: The Denver Nightingale, Archeophone Records, 2002