How many women have put on their sexiest voices to sing this campiest of all Christmas songs? Unless you’re Eartha Kitt, it’s an act. But she had the voice and the spirit to make this song more than a novelty.
Here’s the original, recorded in 1953 by a 26-year-old Ms. Kitt:
Eartha Kitt died on Christmas Day in 2008, after nearly 82 years of a fascinating and at times poignant life.
Born the child of a black mother and white father, possibly as a result of rape, her mother had a challenging time finding a home for her small family because one daughter (Eartha) was “yellow” — light-skinned — and illegitimate.
She grew up to enjoy great success as an entertainer, but it wasn’t without its challenges. And despite limited education when she was a child, as an adult she reportedly spoke four languages, including French, and sang in eleven. Her roles as an actress ranged from Helen of Troy to Catwoman in the Batman TV series (replacing Julie Newmar).
About a year before she died, she made this comment about “Santa Baby” in an interview on NPR:
“every time I sing “Santa Baby,” I laugh more at myself when I’m singing that song because I know what I’ve gone through and the song says Santa baby, slip a sable under the tree. Well, all the men who have done that with me had never stayed with me, so I realized everything that I want in life I have to pay for myself, and I really love that because then nobody owns me, but me, and my public of course. “
Merry Christmas to all who struggle, whatever your pain may be. Find strength in the victories of others, knowing the same can happen for you.