Once upon a time, Christmas music was — well, Christmas music.
“Silent Night.” “Adeste Fidelis.” “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” You know — songs about Jesus, the Magi and the manger.
In 1953, Eartha Kitt released “Santa Baby.” It was — well, earthy.
The 26-year-old entertainer sang seductively about gifts from a sugar daddy Santa — you know, a yacht, sable and ’54 convertible.
Despite being banned in parts of the South, it was the best-selling Christmas song of the year.
In the nearly 70 years since, it’s been covered by dozens of artists, including Madonna, Kylie Mingoue, Taylor Swift, Trisha Yearwood, Michael Bublé, RuPaul and Homer & Jethro.
It’s been found on lists of the best — and worst — Christmas songs of all time.
And it opened the door for an entire new category of offbeat holiday tunes. Had it not been for “Santa Baby,” we might never have known the singing chipmunks, the Kinks’ violent “Father Christmas,” or the song that truly is the worst of all time — in any category — “The Christmas Shoes.”
Eartha Kitt died in 2008 — fittingly, on Christmas Day — in her Weston home. Her daughter Kitt Shapiro has lived in Westport for 20 years. She owns WEST, the great boutique on Post Road East.
“Santa Baby” sure has legs. Last Friday, Sony Music released a new, animated video version of the song.
It’s quite a story. Directed by Kelly Jones (founder of a Black-owned visual media and design house) and produced by Cousins (a queer-owned production studio), it’s an homage to Eartha Kitt’s life and career. Smooth, sexy animation draws viewers right into the singer’s dreamy wish list.
In this COVID-stricken year of 2020, Santa may be paring down his gift list. He might be careful about how many homes he visits.
But if Eartha Kitt has her way — wherever she is now — Santa will hurry down her chimney that night.