A commenter on a recent post about Bobby Goldsboro’s “Honey” suggested that in the pantheon of the World’s Worst Songs, “the fruit doesn’t hang any lower.” I beg to differ, sir. Paul Anka’s “You’re Having My Baby” doesn’t so much hang as it lies on the ground waiting for somebody to pick it up.
Let me say first that strictly from a musical standpoint, I do not find “You’re Having My Baby” particularly offensive. It’s quite well produced, as you’d expect from Rick Hall, impresario of Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, where so many great records were made during the 1960s. And maybe, had it come along in the late 60s, it might not have been as reviled as it was.
But “You’re Having My Baby” hit the radio in the summer of 1974, with the women’s liberation movement in full flower. A newly empowered generation of young women believed that they could be called to things other than motherhood, and that there was no sin in ranking those other callings higher than motherhood. Furthermore, they believed that marriage was a partnership, one in which both husband and wife possessed an equal stake. All of which, “You’re Having My Baby” seemed to say, was hooey. It suggested that the greatest thing a wife could do for her husband was to have his babies, and the best thing a man could have was a pregnant wife.
Anka, who wrote the song, found himself having to defend it against an onslaught of criticism. He admitted that he could have written it “you’re having our baby,” but that “my” sounded better. He suggested, correctly I think, that the lines “didn’t have to keep it . . . you could have swept it from your life but you wouldn’t do it,” which pro-choice advocates viewed as an anti-abortion reference, merely acknowledged the newly legal choice available to women at the time. Ultimately, Anka dismissed the controversy by saying it was just a love song, and by suggesting that the country had bigger problems than the content of a hit record. But Ms. magazine named him its Male Chauvinist of the Year all the same.
Here’s Anka lip-synching the song on TV. Odia Coates, who provides a couple of female vocal lines, is nowhere to be seen. And that’s not going to make anybody think the baby’s mother is an equal partner.
Did we mention the song was #1 on the Hot 100 for three weeks?