Hang up your stockings and light up your Christmas tree! Musicnotes.com has a special holiday treat in store for all of you today. We had the pleasure of speaking with songwriter Philip Springer who wrote the ever-popular Christmas song, “Santa Baby.”
You probably already know that every song has a story, but did you know that “Santa Baby” has a tale that spans over fifty years? We didn’t either when we first asked Philip Springer about how the song, “Santa Baby,” came about.
The Story Behind Santa Baby from Songwriter Philip Springer
Philip Springer first got involved with the song Santa Baby in 1953, when he was working with Joan Javitts and financed by an older gentleman. Their financier made a deal with Victor Publishing who had asked them to write a song for the legendary Eartha Kitt. At first, Joan was assigned to work on the song but then tapped into Philip’s talents shortly afterward.
The songwriting process was almost instantaneous. Joan had supplied Phil with a single song lyric that read “Santa baby, just slip a sable under the tree, for me.” Hearing the music in his head, Phil literally wrote the music for the song in five minutes. The entire process of fitting lyrics to music took only about three weeks.
With the song in hand, Philip and Joan (both ASCAP writers) checked into the song title with the publishers from a company called Trinity Music, owned by BMI. At the time, BMI and ASCAP were entrenched in a “war,” as Philip described it, so in order to get the song published and settle their differences, they had to create a fictional BMI songwriter who they named Tony Springer.
Philip recalled that, “Santa Baby was an immediate hit in October 1953.” The following year, the BMI publishers asked Joan to publish five, different sets of lyrics for the song which ended up confusing the public. Since no one knew what lyric was the “right one” to go with the song, “Santa Baby” lost its holiday sparkle and wasn’t played much until the end of its copyright term in 1981.
At the end of the copyright term, the rights for Santa Baby returned to Joan and Philip. In his own words, he “really believed that this song was something, so I begged Joan not to sell the rights to anyone but me.” Joan did sell her rights to Philip, and in turn he became the sole owner of the song later that year, in 1981.
For seven years, Philip pounded the pavement, begging DJs to play the song. Putting his “blood, sweat and tears” into Santa Baby, he wouldn’t give up on the song even though friends and colleagues had lost faith in it until one, fateful day.
In 1988, A&M records called Philip and asked him if he was interested in giving up royalties for record sales if a big recording artist published the song. If he agreed, it meant that Philip would not make any money off of the recording. Philip had asked who the artist was, and when the record company told him that it was Madonna, and that all sale proceeds went to the Olympics Fund, he gave up any chance to profit on that particular recording of Santa Baby.
After Madonna recorded Santa baby, Philip indicated that “it was no longer an obscure Christmas song. In quick order, other great things started happening. Santa Baby was included in the award-winning film Driving Miss Daisy, then everybody wanted to do Santa Baby. One by one, every major television show put this song into their annual Christmas Special.”
Today, Santa Baby continues to be one of the most popular songs around the world for Christmas and Philip couldn’t be more thrilled about it. In a fantastic mood and singing to us on the phone, it’s very obvious Philip has a great love for music. We would like to mention that this year holds a special significance for Philip Springer, too.
One year before Philip wrote the music for Santa Baby, he started working on a song called “Christmas is the Warmest Day of the Year.” Fifty-four years later, he finally finished the song in 2006 and played it to someone who was interested in recording Santa Baby. The song has been featured on a jazz album and may become this holiday’s next, big hit!
Musicnotes.com would like to extend a warm and hearty “Thank You” to Philip Springer for his time describing the history behind Santa Baby. We hope you enjoyed this edition of our Songwriter Spotlight, and encourage you to sing, dance, play and listen to both “Santa Baby” and “Christmas is the Warmest Day of the Year.”