Rod Stewart and Dolly Parton have done it. Amy Grant and Vince Gill have done it. Willie Nelson and Norah Jones have done it. Barry Manilow, Lady Gaga, Frank Sinatra, and Kelly Clarkson, too.
They all have recorded "Baby, It's Cold Outside," which some radio stations, in a PC panic, are banning in a manifestation of the #MeToo movement.
"I think it's outrageous, it's so out of line," says legendary DJ Jerry Blavat. "I heard someone was going to ban 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer' because of bullying. Where does it end?"
Although Christmas is not mentioned, "Baby" gets treated as a "Christmas" song. Will you hear it in Philly? The only station playing Christmas music 24/7 this year, says Inside Radio, is B101. That station removed it from its playlist last year, claiming some sort of a moral victory.
The song was written in 1944 by Frank Loesser, one of America's premier songwriters. The lyrics are sexy, but critics say they cross some forbidden lines.
In the call-and-response duet, the woman says she wants to go, the man implores her to stay. The lyrics don't explain how she came to be at his place, complete with roaring fire.
He keeps talking about how bad the weather is and that it will be hard to get a cab.
I’m thinking, “You are not going to take her home? What kind of a guy are you?”
Some answer: a rapist.
Is it a "date-rape holiday classic," https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-most-wtf-covers-of-baby-its-cold-outside-everyones-favorite-date-rape-holiday-classic, as it was called in the Daily Beast?
That opinion springs from one line in this stanza:
So really I'd better scurry (Beautiful please don't hurry)
Well maybe just a half a drink more (I'll put some records on while I pour)
The neighbors might think (Baby it's bad out there)
Say what's in this drink? (No cabs to be had out there)
Note that line: Say what's in this drink?
"It was a kind of sexy song back in the day, and now it's about, are you slipping me a mickey?" says veteran music journalist Jonathan Takiff, who says the defining rendition is the version by Ray Charles and Betty Carter.
"Now people look at it with this jaundiced eye — this can be the next Les Moonves or Harvey Weinstein or, worst of all, Bill Cosby. He has killed the song for everybody" by drugging his victims, says Takiff.
WMGK DJ Leigh Richards, a recent inductee into the Broadcast Pioneers Hall of Fame, sees the song as "mutual seduction. I didn't see it as rapey. It's playful."
Veteran WMMR DJ Pierre Robert has heard "millions" of versions, but his favorite is the "boozy" one by Dean Martin and Marilyn Maxwell.
"I can certainly respect the whole argument about date rape, but to me, I never heard that in it at all. To me it was just a guy trying to convince a gal to stay over."
The woman is flirting, too, says Takiff. "The girl singer in that duet was as coy as the guy was. It was a mutually agreed-upon seduction." Remember, she asks for half a drink more.
WMGK's Cyndy Drue says, "I just think the whole controversy is taking it too far. It's just a song. There are probably so many other songs that could be deemed offensive," she says.
"Stations and listeners have the right to be offended, and stations have the right to ban a song," says Drue, "I just think it could be the tip of the iceberg."
The song has been recorded by well over 50 artists, everyone from Pearl Bailey to Seth MacFarlane. Do we want them all to write notes of apology?
In the song, the man is cajoling — begging, really. He never lays a finger on her. The woman is the decision-maker. She has the power.
Isn’t that the ultimate in empowerment? I think so, and so did Frank Loesser.