"Having My Baby" / Paul Anka
I couldn't write about this in 80s Cheese Week because -- well, cheesy as it undoubtedly is, it was released in 1974. At that period of my life I had entirely given up listening to commercial radio, immersing myself instead in my stacks of vinyl LPs. Even so, I couldn't help being aware of -- and appalled by -- this song. In later years Anka, repeatedly slammed by feminist groups, changed the lyrics in concert to "Having Our Baby," but that doesn't fundamentally change the male chauvinism pervading this song. Anka was blindsided by the criticism, claiming the record was genuinely meant as a love song to his wife, the mother of his five daughters. (The wife he divorced in 2000, later marrying a Swedish model 3o years younger than himself -- I'm just sayin'...).
Well, I'm trying to cut Paul Anka some slack. (After all, he is Canadian.) When this song was released, it had been 15 years since Anka's last hit, "Lonely Boy." In the interim, the British Invasion had changed the pop world and he had had to fall back on his songwriting skills, penning tunes like Tom Jones' "She's a Lady" and the lyrics to Frank Sinatra's "My Way." (Not to mention the Tonight Show theme.) He must have been as surprised as anyone when "Having My Baby" shot up the charts.
Maybe it's my problem, my queasy reaction to lines about his seed growing inside her, and how pregnancy is her way of proving how much she loves him. (Sounds like forced servitude to me, but hey, I could be wrong.) But that line about "You could have swept it from your life"? I don't think that would please either pro-life OR pro-choice folks.
Though we all know Paul Anka was already going bald, let's pretend he's just wearing that hat because he wants to look like Neil Young. But what gives, that this video doesn't even include his duet partner, Odia Coates? Her vocals save this song -- without that, he'd sound even more clueless. Her presence suggests that maybe, just maybe, the woman genuinely wants this baby on her own grounds.
In 2006, this song was voted the worst song of all time in a CNN poll. So what made me think of it today? Well, I was doing a road trip with my daughter and she pre-empted the car stereo to play songs from her iPod -- an iPod which contains every number ever sung by the cast from the TV show "Glee." (Need I mention that my daughter is 15 years old?) Apparently there was one episode on which the kids deliberately worked up routines to famously bad songs -- naturally "Having My Baby" made that cut. And you know what? Their version isn't half bad. Take a listen...
Which begs the question -- did Paul Anka's rendition somehow add an extra offending tone to this song? Now, I don't know the man. There's no question he's a talented guy. But I did learn about a famous tape of him chewing out his crew, quotes from which have snuck into popular culture (next time you hear a comedian say, "The guys get shirts!", you'll know the reference). There could be a connection. This song isn't just cheesy, it's downright creepy -- at least I think so. Or am I overreacting?