This post is dedicated to my Mum who is…(you don’t honestly think I’m going to say do you?) celebrating her birthday today. And no, that’s not her above, but one of my Mum’s favourite singers, the legendary Eartha Kitt. Eartha Kitt was the original Catwoman (literally, she played her in the 1960s TV series of Batman), who spoke out against the Vietnam War at a White House Lunch hosted by LBJ’s wife in 1968 which saw her blacklisted in the US(who said McCarthyism died in the 1950s?). As a child from a mixed race background in the deep American South of the 1920s, life must have been unimaginably hard, but she took her exotic looks and and is still using them to delight and terrify generations of people decades later.
For me, it’s the songs that she made in the 1950s which we would listen on car journeys (some of my contemporaries had to suffer the aural equivalent of Thatcherism in the likes of Dire Straits and other capitalist aesthetic monstrosities) such as ‘Old Fashioned Girl’ and ‘I Want To Be Evil.’ She’d horrified my maternal Grandmother, who took her songs at face value.
So Mum, here for you, is Eartha Kitt singing I want To Be Evil:
Another person that my Mum and Dad played to my brother and I when we were young was Tom Lehrer. This send-up of the Catholic Church and Vatican II is utterly hysterical. As far as I’m concerned, the likes of Tom Lehrer and Eartha Kitt were far more radical and anti-establishment than many artists could ever hope to be. Consider them the Jello Biafras and Madonnas of their day…except they’re still going. According to Wikipedia, ‘There is a misconception that Lehrer gave up political satire when the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Henry Kissinger in 1973. He did say that the awarding of the prize to Kissinger made political satire obsolete, but has denied that he stopped doing satire as a form of protest, and asserts that he had stopped doing satire several years earlier.’
Happy birthday Ma.