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"Baby, It's Cold Outside" is a pop standard with words and music by Frank Loesser. Originally, it was intended to be a Christmas song. In its early years it was played only during Christmas time. In recent years, however, it has been recorded by numerous adult contemporary artists and played year round.
Loesser wrote the duet in 1944 and premiered the song with his wife, Lynn Garland, at their Navarro Hotel housewarming party, and performed it toward the end of the evening, signifying to guests that it was nearly time to end the party. Lynn considered it "their song," and was furious when Loesser sold the song to MGM.
The lyrics in this duet are designed to be heard as a conversation between two people, marked as "mouse" and "wolf" on the printed score. Every line in the song features a statement from the "mouse" followed by a response from the "wolf". Usually the "wolf" part is sung by a male and the "mouse" by a female. Though the song does not specifically reference any holiday, it is often regarded as a Christmas song due to the lyrics' depiction of a snowy backdrop, as well as the cozy interior setting that is described by the "wolf" character.
Criticisms of the song stem from a reading of the lyrics not as the 'mouse' wanting to stay and only putting up a token protest for the sake of appearance as supported by lyrics such as "The neighbors might think..." "My father will be pacing the floor", but instead as the 'mouse' genuinely wanting to leave but being stopped by the 'wolf' being coercive in his pleading with the mouse. Examples of questionable lyrics in this regard include, "I simply must go", "The answer is no", "I've got to go home".
In 1948, after years of informally performing the song at various parties, Loesser sold its rights to MGM, which inserted the song into its 1949 motion picture, Neptune's Daughter. The film featured two performances of the song: one by Ricardo Montalbán and Esther Williams and the other by Red Skelton and Betty Garrett, the second of which has the roles of wolf and mouse reversed. These performances earned Loesser an Academy Award for Best Original Song.
The following versions were recorded in 1949:
"Baby, It's Cold Outside" has been recorded by numerous other artists over the years. At least five different versions of the song have made at least one singles chart in the United States.
Dean Martin performed this song for his Christmas album.
The 1961 Ray Charles/Betty Carter version is the first of two versions to chart on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart (1958 to present), and the only one for over forty-eight years; it peaked at number ninety-one in March 1962. This version was used in the 1990s on the program A Different World, in which a husband and wife lip sync to the recording as a means of flirtation.
In 1990, Barry Manilow recorded the song in a duet with K.T. Oslin for Manilow's album Because It's Christmas; his version of the song in particular has become a popular version amongst radio stations whose format changes to Christmas music during the Holiday Season.
The song was covered by Leigh Nash and Gabe Dixon in 1995 for 'Do You Hear What I Hear?'.
The song was introduced to a new generation of listeners with the soulful interpretation of Grammy Award nominated singer/actress Vanessa Williams and rhythm and blues/jazz pioneer Bobby Caldwell. It was featured on Williams' first holiday album, the critically acclaimed and commercially successful, Star Bright.
Actress/singer Zooey Deschanel, who appeared in the 2003 film Elf, recorded the song with Leon Redbone for the film's soundtrack. In the movie itself, Zooey Deschanel sings part of the song with Will Ferrell while she is showering and he is sitting on the bathroom counter. As part of the duo She & Him Deschanel recorded the song again with M. Ward in 2011 for their festive album A Very She and Him Christmas, this time as the "wolf."
Two versions have also made the Hot Country Songs charts: Martina McBride in an overdubbed duet with Dean Martin, peaked at number thirty-six, and a duet between Willie Nelson and Norah Jones reached number fifty-five in January 2010. However, perhaps the most famous country version is performed by Dolly Parton with Rod Stewart, which in 2004 also made it to number two on the US AC chart.
A version released by country music group Lady Antebellum in 2008 reached number on the Bubbling Under Hot 100. The band performed the song live on NBC's Today Show the morning of Christmas Eve, 12/24/2008. Lady Antebellum's original studio recording of the song was included the following year on the "NOW That's What I Call A Country Christmas" compilation two-disc CD set, released October 6, 2009.
Ryan Kelly of Celtic Thunder and Belinda Murphy perform the song on the group's Christmas album (2010).
Arizona rock band The Asphalt recorded a version of the song and released it to radio and for sale on the internet on November 1, 2010.
Other odd couples who have recorded the song are Al Hirt and Ann-Margret (on The Most Fabulous Christmas Album Ever compilation) and Rod McKuen and Petula Clark (on the A 1940s Christmas compilation).
In 2008, Filipino singers Sitti & Christian Bautista covered their version from Sitti's 1st Christmas Album, Ngayong Pasko.
In 2010, Chris Colfer and Darren Criss performed the song on the TV show Glee as Kurt Hummel and Blaine Anderson respectively in the episode "A Very Glee Christmas". It had been released the month before on the album Glee: The Music, The Christmas Album, and although the song was not separately released as a single, it nevertheless charted at number fifty-seven on the Billboard Hot 100 after the show aired. The song was later performed by Cameron Mitchell and Lindsay Pearce on The Glee Project's fifth episode, "Pairability".
"Baby, It's Cold Outside" is mentioned in a key passage from The America I Have Seen, a 1951 book by the influential Egyptian Islamist Sayyid Qutb. He described the scene as a record of the song was played at a church dance in the town of Greeley, Colorado: "The dance hall convulsed to the tunes on the gramophone and was full of bounding feet and seductive legs ... Arms circled waists, lips met lips, chests met chests, and the atmosphere was full of passion." In Lawrence Wright's "The Looming Tower," Wright records how this song helped form the anti-American feelings of Qutb, and Wright records that he came home to Egypt "even more radicalized." Qtub was part of the Muslim Brotherhood when he returned to Egypt, was imprisoned twice, and executed in 1966. Wright recounts the effect of Qutb on Mahfouz Azzam, whom Qutb instructed in third grade, and Azzam's similar effect on his fatherless nephew Ayman al-Zawahiri, the current head of Al-Qaeda.