Friday on My Mind: Songs About the Cold

It’s time again for Friday on My Mind. Our weekly blog post where we look at videos centered around one common theme. This is a collaborative effort between KEXP and King 5 News. The weather has taken a turn for the cold, so this week were looking at songs about the cold.

Seattle cold is a different kind of cold. It’s not better or worse than a Midwest chill or an East Coast freeze but it is different. It’s a wet cold and 50 feels like 40 and 40 feels like 20 and 20… we don’t usually hit 20. That’s also the issue, we aren’t used to cold here. Rain? Yes. Cold? No. So we wore flannel and now we wear North Face. Before we were rockin’ these styles we had our coldest three weeks beginning on January 12, 1950. Extreme cold and heavy snow took over Washington State. It was one of Washington’s worst winter outbreaks of the Twentieth Century. The cold quickly began having strange effects on mechanical equipment. In Seattle, where the morning’s low was a comparatively balmy eight above zero, the Fremont Bridge was raised at one point during the day to let a tanker pass underneath. The span froze in the “up” position for more than half an hour, snarling traffic. Then a few weeks later on January 31st, 1950, Seattle hit it’s all time record low which was 0 degrees. Seattle lost its mind a few years ago hitting 100 so I can’t imagine what 0 caused. The lowest temperature in United States −79.8 °F (−62.1 °C) was recorded in Prospect Creek, Alaska. Lowest temperature ever recorded in world was in Antarctica, at the Vostok station back on July 21, 1983. The temperature recorded was -128.6 °F. The fastest temperature drop recorded was 27.2 °C (49 °F) in 15 minutes; Rapid City, South Dakota, 1911-01-10. Weather was a factor in the Seattle mayor race in 2009. Greg Nickels was heavily criticized for the city’s policy of not using salt for snow removal due to potential environmental concerns, which contributed to the city’s congested traffic in December 2008 after one of the greatest snowfalls in the city since 1996. He was also criticized for not going and shoveling everyone’s walk. If he doesn’t, who will?! Winter Solstice will be December 21 this year.

Ricardo Motalban with Esther Williams & Red Skelton with Betty Garrett – Baby It’s Cold Outside

“Baby It’s Cold Outside” was written by Frank Loesser who is probably most famous for writing the music for Guys & Dolls. The song won an Academy Award for Best Original song . It’s been recorded by the likes of Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin and contemporary artists like Tom Jones, James Taylor, Cee-Lo Green, and who can forget Zooey Deschanel’s version in the movie Elf? Seriously, who can forget that? I can’t. It’s killing me. The song was used in the 1949, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer movie Neptune’s Daughter, which is the video footage we are looking at today. The song is featured twice in the movie. In the first instance the song is performed by the well known actress/swimmer Ester Williams and Ricardo Motalban, who you probably remember best as Mr. Roarke, the overseer of Fantasy Island. That’s how they made movies then. Swimmers and Mr. Roarke singing about the cold outside.

Arcade Fire – Cold Wind

The Canadian band Arcade Fire began in 2003. The group consists of large cast of members including husband and wife Win Butler and Régine Chassagne. They shocked and confused the mainstream when their 3rd album, The Suburbs won the 2011 Grammy for Album of the Year. The public was not prepared for good music to win this award. They had trusted the Grammy Awards to only award band’s based on sales and non-Canadian status. The band pressed a limited number of the single, “Cold Wind” and it is currently out of print. This song did not make it on to any of the band’s official full lengths, but appears on the Six Feet Under Official soundtrack and if you can trust anyone to sing about the cold, its Canadians!

Kanye West – The Coldest Winter

From the fourth release by Kanye West, 808s & Heartbreak, “The Coldest Winter” fits the bill as far as songs about the cold. This particular album was very polarizing for many of Kanye’s fans since it was very different from all of his previous material. The public fears change and Arcade Fire winning Album of the Year so it was a risk. One change was that he sings on most of the songs instead of rapping and the album leans more towards being a pop and electronic album through the use of synthesizers. The video is dark, but beautiful and features a woman running in slow motion. You have to see it to understand that.

Honorable Mentions

The Cure – Plainsong

The Cure formed in Sussex, England way back in 1976. “Plainsong” is the opening song their 1989 album, Disintegration. A song very much about the cold. Here is footage of the band performing the song from their concert DVD Trilogy which documented their Trilogy Concerts, where they performed the three albums — Pornography, Disintegration,and Bloodflowers — in their entirety one after the other on tour. All of the songs were played in the order that they appeared on each of the albums. Trilogy was recorded on two consecutive nights during November of 2002 in Berlin, Germany. Goths exploded. Right there in the audience. Spontaneous combustion. The only remnants left were some black eye liner and charred black stockings.

Shannon Stephens – Cold November

This one is from local singer-songwriter, Shannon Stephens. She has released three albums during her career, with eight years between her 1st and 2nd album. She’s worked with Sufjan Stevens in the past and is on his Asthmatic Kitty label roster. This one is a very pretty one from this very talented local artist. This song is available for free download here.

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