If you think about a Christmas song and Madonna, the one coming up to mind is simply Santa Baby written by palm beacher Joan Javits Zeeman more than 50 years ago.
The song originally sung by Eartha Kitt was later re-discovered by many artists and also recorded by Kirstie Alley for a commercial and used in film soundtracks such as Elf and Mona Lisa Smile with Julia Roberts.
The song’s lyrics ask the man in red to “slip a sable” under the tree. While he’s at it, how about a convertible, yacht, the deed to a platinum mine, something from Tiffany’s and a ring?
“It’s a little naughty,” Joan Javits Zeeman said. “That’s what it’s supposed to be.”
Zeeman, and her songwriting partner, Phil Springer, wrote it in one night after meeting with recording industry executives looking for a musical vehicle for the then-unknown Kitt. What they wanted, and what they got, was a sexy Christmas song.
Since then Zeeman has written other works, including the 1961 children’s musical Young Abe Lincoln.
“I’ve written some beautiful songs with Phil,” she said. “But never anything that has kept going like this.”
The song, however, did have a period of dormancy.
“The new generation never heard of it,” she said. “Then Madonna found it.”
The pop icon included it on the 1988 release, A Very Special Christmas.
Though Zeeman prefers to remain anonymous when the song is publicly played in stores, her granddaughter is not shy about it.
“My grandma wrote that,” Zoe announces to passing shoppers, according to Zeeman.
The song does not reflect her own life, she said.
“It’s not at all autobiographical,” she said. “Material things don’t mean anything to me. I just love to write.”
For the record, she never lets loose with a few bars of the perennial classic.
“I can’t sing,” Zeeman said.
Madonna’s Santa Baby originally appeared on the benefit compilation “A Very Special Christmas” with cover artwork by artist Keith Haring
Adapted from an article by Margie Kacoha published on the Palm Beach Daily News