On May 19, 1979, the Bellamy Brothers earned their first country No. 1 hit with the song “If I Said You Have a Beautiful Body Would You Hold It Against Me.” Written by David Bellamy, the song is a rather brazen lyrical come-on, set to easygoing country-rock music that shows off the brothers’ familial harmonies and laissez-faire pedal steel.
As Howard Bellamy tells SongFacts, the song’s title comes courtesy of comedian Groucho Marx, of the Marx Brothers: “He had a show called You Bet Your Life. He’d have guests on, and different quiz questions,” Bellamy recalls. “And Groucho smoked a cigar – that tells you how long ago it was, he smoked cigars on a TV show. He’d use that line occasionally, he’d say, ‘If I said you had a beautiful body would you hold it against me?’ and shake his cigar, and kind of raise his eyebrows.
“Our family always had a weird Southern sense of humor and they’d use that line around a lot,” he continues. “So it just came one day that it’d be a great song title.”
Incredibly enough, “If I Said You Have a Beautiful Body Would You Hold It Against Me” almost never had a chance to become a hit. According to a 2007 Belfast Telegraph story, the song was originally discarded, since the group’s record label was down on country music at the time. However, a man named Mervyn Solomon, who owned the record label Emerald, saw the potential in the song and issued it as a single in Northern Ireland. “If I Said You Have a Beautiful Body Would You Hold It Against Me” became a smash.
“If Mr. Solomon hadn’t saved that song for posterity it would never have been heard of, nor would it have been turned into the Bellamys’ greatest hit,” Howard Bellamy told the paper at the time.
The song hasn’t been without controversy, however: In 2011, the Bellamy Brothers pondered a lawsuit for copyright infringement after the release of Britney Spears’ single “Hold It Against Me.” David Bellamy even told TMZ, “Howard and I have no personal beef with Britney. She’s a talented gal. But professionally, well, in all honesty, we feel completely ripped off. Where’s the originality?”
In a turn of events, the brothers were then sued for defamation by Spears’ song’s co-producers and co-writers, Dr. Luke and Max Martin. The lawsuit was dropped later in the year, and the brothers issued an apology, according to TMZ: “The Bellamy Brothers apologize to Dr. Luke and Max Martin for the Bellamys’ public statements and any false impressions suggested by the statements on their website that Dr. Luke and Max Martin copy the works of others.”
“If I Said You Have a Beautiful Body Would You Hold It Against Me” spent three weeks atop the country charts, and was nominated for two Grammy Awards: Best Country & Western Performance – Duo or Group With Vocal, and Best Country & Western Song.
The Bellamy Brothers landed nine further No. 1 hits on the country charts, to go along with their other big smash, a No. 1 pop hit in 1976 called “Let Your Love Flow.” The brothers also re-recorded “If I Said You Have a Beautiful Body Would You Hold It Against Me” in 2005 with Dolly Parton; that version charted at a modest No. 60 on the country charts.
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