i got you babe

Then put your little hand in mine
There ain't no hill or mountain we can't climb
Babe, I got you babe
I got you babe

Sonny and Cher were living in their manager’s house when Sonny, late one night, according to Rolling Stone, woke Cher up to get her to listen to the song he’d just written on a piece of shirt cardboard.

She thought it was OK but really wanted a song that modulated. So he changed the key at the bridge and woke Cher up again hours later to hear it; she was delighted.

I’m not a musician, so I’m not entirely sure I understand that bit about “a song that modulated” but we all know the song. It’s simple, it’s cute and cheesy. And, it was in Groundhog Day from the beginning. Rubin put it in the screenplay, he says in How to Write Groundhog Day,

…because of the way the recording ends. The song winds down with a long, soft, definitive “I – got – you – babe,” but then instead of ending, the song comes back: “I got you, babe!. I got you, babe! I got you, babe!” drilling into your brain, over and over. Perfect.”

Of course, Rubin wasn’t in charge of the timing and “as it turned out that part of the recording wasn’t used in the film.” Still, he wanted something that was

…catchy and likable, but the kind of thing that would start to drive you crazy after hearing it over and over. Additionally, it’s a love song, and painfully ironic for Phil who gets Rita every day of his life without actually getting her.

At least they didn’t go with “What’s New Pussycat.” If you don’t get why that would be funny, have a listen to this:

Anyway, back to “I Got You Babe.” In August, 1965, the song spent three weeks at #1. Sonny & Cher had a few studio albums in the late 60s then two popular TV shows in the 70s. They divorced in 1975, but their final public performance together (Cher performed the song with REM in 2002) was 12 years later, when David Letterman asked them to sing and they obliged by performing none other than “I Got You Babe” one more time.

Here’s that performance:

For comparison, here they are in 1965 (when Sonny had the long hair Cher refers to in the lyrics):

Speaking of the long hair, Songfacts suggests that while “I Got You Babe” wasn't an anti-war song, “it went over well with the Hippie crowd because it stuck up for guys with long hair when Cher sang, "Let them say your hair's too long, I don't care, with you I can't go wrong."

As for its place in Groundhog Day, it’s interesting that a romantic song plays for Phil every morning (even though on Morning 5 we hear the “Pennsylvania Polka” over the shot of the alarm clock and we get dramatically silent alarm clock shots later in the film on Day 20). This is a song about having someone in your life, and arguably Phil has no one. Or, really, he’s got all 6,782 citizens of Punxsutawney plus the few thousand in town for Groundhog Day. But, as has been said many a time, Phil doesn’t learn to connect on anything but a shallow level with any of these people until he’s been repeating for a while. Perhaps the entire point is just for Phil to appreciate the song he hears every morning. He’s got to grow to find out what he doesn’t know… In case you’re not familiar with all the lyrics, that’s a reference to the opening lines:

They say we're young and we don't know
We won't find out until we grow

He’s got to grow to find out what he doesn’t know. Isn’t that true for all of us?

Anyway, for just a little more “I Got You Babe,” here are some notable covers:

  • Manfred Mann
  • Etta James
  • Tiny Tim
  • Claude François , sorta
  • David Bowie and Marianna Faithfull
  • The Dictators
  • Joey Ramone and Holly Beth Vincent
  • The Cynics
  • REM
  • Madonna and Sandra Bernhard
  • Britney Spears and Frank Skinner
  • Shawn Hunter and Rachel McGuire on Boy Meets World
  • Sofia Petrillo and Dorothy Zbornak on The Golden Girls
  • Uncle Jesse and Michelle Tanner and Uncle Jesse on Full House
  • Sonny and Chastity Bono
  • Cher with Beavis and Butthead
  • there’s this from American Dad!

    Today’s reason to repeat a day forever: to find even more versions of this song, because it does not get old at all </sarcasm>

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