Song of the Week #2 – She’s My Baby

To hear the song and read the lyrics click the link below:
She’s My Baby

The essay about why I wrote this song may be longer and more interesting than the song itself.  I was reading “Tunesmith” a book about songwriting by songwriter Jimmy Webb (recommended).  In it there is a passage about using the word ‘baby’:

And what can be said for “baby”? Well, without “baby” we would have been songless since about 1953.  My late friend Harry Nilsson once said, “Never say ‘baby’ unless you’re talking about an infant – a little person.” The ubiquitous endearment slides by unnoticed for the most part, having become a kind of meaningless buffer or slug in the rhythm and meter of a given line.  In pop, rock, and R&B, the word will never be displaced even though it is a word and should never be just thrown in. (“Tunesmith” by Jimmy Webb, First Paperback Edition, p71)

What else could I do after reading that, but resolve to write a song not only using but featuring the dreaded word.
It was about this time that I went out with my 3 adult children to see the movie “Knocked Up”, starring Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl. It was during a time in movie history when it was pretty hard to find a movie that didn’t feature Seth Rogen.  Folksinger Loudon Wainwright III had a bit part in the movie, playing Heigl’s gynecologist. Wainwright also wrote a lot of the incidental music for the film. As the closing credits rolled, Loudon’s music played:

“That’s my daughter in the water, everything she owns I bought her, everything she owns…..”  and “That’s my daughter in the water, everything she knows I taught her, everything she knows….”

I didn’t think about it much in the moment, except for catchy little tune.

It was some weeks later and I was listening to folk music on folkalley.com.  The DJ comes on and says, “Here is a little song that Loudon Wainwright wrote about his daughter…”.  This statement hit me and startled me in a way I cannot explain.  Do people really think that we songwriters always speak truth when we write?  The more I thought about it, the more I thought Wainwright probably didn’t write this about his daughter at all.  He was in on the movie, and saw a good chance to cash in on that, and wrote a sappy song on spec for the movie.  Oh, Wainwright has a daughter, to be sure, the singer-songwriter Martha Wainwright, but this is the girl who wrote the song “Bloody Mother F***ing A**hole” ostensibly about her beloved dad and his wonderful parenting skills.

So I was picturing Martha hearing this song and saying “everything I know you taught me, my a**” and his ex, Kate McGarrigle, saying “…and where the f*** was I???!!!  You’re such a bastard, Loudon!”

The song could perhaps be fixed by inserting appropriate disclaimers to mitigate the unchecked arrogance exhibited by Mr. Wainwright, i.e. “….everything she knows I taught her, except of course all the wonderful stuff her mother taught her, and then there are her teachers, friends, partners, et cetera, cetera.”  If Wainwright won’t do it, then I guess I must.  Only to stay true to the “baby” challenge from the Webb article, My song is about a lover, not a child of mine.  It is my answer to the arrogance of songs.  When Lennon and McCartney wrote “every little thing she does, she does for me” – did they really think that this girl did not exist to do anything but serve their every whim?  Where the hell do they get off?  Sure Sir Paul is an ex-Beatle, and we of the baby boom generation hold them in the esteem usually reserved for deities, but why do songwriters have to be so damned arrogant?

So I resolved that my “baby” song would show proper humility.

Musically, it is done in a middle period John Lennon fingerstyle guitar. Toward the end of the Beatles era, I think Lennon longed for something more real, more roots rock, less “produced” than the direction the Beatles were going. Certainly in their early days they were an amazing live band. I read somewhere that Dylan once asked John if all that production was really necessary.  I think that McCartney might have had other ideas – The Beatles should remain the slickest rock band ever, constantly topping each project with a slicker, more amazing project.

As a last ditch effort, as the Beatles as we know it were falling apart, they tried to recreate that early band feeling by recording the album “Let It Be” mostly live, on a rooftop in London.  They called upon producer Phil Spector to work on it, who could not resist the temptation to ruin it in production, with overblown string and choir arrangements (“The Long and Winding Road, Let It Be, et cetera).  He even had “Phil + Ronnie” etched into the vinyl near the label of the LP.  Ronnie was Veronica Bennett, later Ronnie Spector, the lead singer of a band that Phil produced in the 60s called the Ronnettes (“Be My Baby”).  Well this completed the circle for me, in case you were wondering how I was going to tie all this back into my dreaded “baby” song.  So I added some Ronnettes style harmonies to the last verse and the song “She’s My Baby” was born.

Credits:
Words and Music – Steve Deasy
Lead Vocal – Steve Deasy
Guitar – Steve Deasy
Bass – Steve
Melodica – Steve
Ronettes – 3 Steves
Drums – Steve

Happy listening!

Love,

Steve

PS. I am amending this old post because Jonathan Chute commented and pointed out that Wainwright did not actually write this song that he sang in the movie. It was written by Peter Blegvad

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