Phil Springer maneuvers his knobby but agile fingers across the keys of the upright piano in his daughter’s living room and croons the opening lines of the Christmas song so sexy that when Eartha Kitt recorded it for the first time in 1953 it was banned in parts of the South:
Santa baby, just slip a sable under the tree / for me / Been an awful good girl / Santa baby, so hurry down the chimney tonight.
At 91, his voice might not purr like Kitt’s — it’s more an affectionate bark — but Springer, who co-wrote the familiar tune, makes up for it in glee.
He wasn’t always so happy with the song. When Springer and his frequent collaborator Joan Javits finished...