Baby It’s Cold: 1957 identity crisis

Welcome to Nineteen Hundred Fifty-Seven. A couple months after Humphrey Bogart dies the American Cancer Society publishes a paper accusing cigarette smoking as causing cancer. The American juvenile delinquent epidemic is touted, clouted, and flouted. A bit later in the year, Kerouac’s  On the Road is published. After several failed USA Atlas rocket launches, USSR’s Sputnik successfully circles the planet. During this year Atlas Shrugged and The Cat in the Hat are published. Go, cat, go.

Life is getting more absurd by the moment. The new rock ‘n’ roll music celebrates this craziness, as well as allowing its primal beatability to carry the overwhelmed young person away like at a revival tent meeting.

Not that ’57 bridges the generational voids easily. We still get Big Carols (now in convenient 10-song 33 1/3 rpm vinyl libraries) from the likes of Bing Crosby (last last generation)(“How Lovely is Christmas“) and Frank Sinatra (last generation)(“The Christmas Waltz“), and Pat Boone (the anti-new generation)(can’t bring myself to link to any of his old stuff!). Footnotationally, please contextualize the New Generation’s Elvis (“Blue Christmas”–recycled from Ernest Tubb and Doye O’Dell) as strange and disturbing back in this old age.

The old guard clung to their old musical style, but could still be naughty. Sex symbol Julie London hit big in 1955 with ‘Cry Me a River.’ So, here in ’57 she tries out the whispery, intimate, sensual style with “I’d Like You for Christmas.” Playboy magazine has been spreading its circulation for a few years by now, you know. Time to titillate the tinsel.

Contrariwise, wholesome daughter of Kitty Wells, Ruby Wright, lends her next-door-girl pipes (with an adorable childrens’ back up) to “Let’s Light the Christmas Tree.

Now, to keep your skills in rhetorical logic even more off balance, here is a different singer also named Ruby Wright, also singing with kids, also releasing in 1957: “Merry, Merry Christmas.” Yeah, she does sound cooler.

Frankie Lymon’s The Teenagers hit big last year with ‘Why Do Fools Fall in Love.’ This year he solos a real downer “It’s Christmas Once Again.” Didn’t make me wanna dance. Maybe question my existence.

The 5 Keys grew out of an R&B foursome in the ’40s. They went through group changes and recording tragedies. “Every Heart is Home at Christmas” may represent an early ’50s effort, but at least one site claims airplay in 1957. It’s hep, so we can fully recover from the last song.

Well, i’m not sure how much more schizo i can get besides bebopping church music. The Norman Luboff Choir took a century old hymn and jazzed up the gospel. “Mary had a Baby (Amen)” does make me wanna dance. Hallelujah.