‘Baby, Please Come Home . . .’

One of my favorite Christmas traditions – and I have very few – comes to an end tonight on the Late Show with David Letterman: Darlene Love’s annual performance of “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).”

Love has performed the song on Letterman’s shows on NBC and CBS since 1986, and with Letterman retiring in the spring, Love said that this year’s performance will be her last of the song on any talk show, according to a piece in this morning’s New York Times.

The Times reports: “People say, ‘He can’t demand that’,” Ms. Love explained, sweeping back her curly platinum hair. “I say, ‘He’s not demanding.’ I made a point myself, and I want to do it just for David.” (The Times piece is here.)

I imagine I’ve seen Love’s last twenty or so annual performances of the song she first recorded in 1963 for the Phil Spector album A Christmas Gift For You, most of them when the show was aired and some of them afterward. It seems to me that my first viewing of one of Love’s performances came in the late 1990s, when I was flipping among the six channels on my TV late one December evening. I came across Letterman – whose show I generally ignored – promising viewers that Darlene Love would perform after the commercial break.

When the break was over and Love took the stage, I was overjoyed. And I’ve been so every year since. (I should note that in 2007, when Love was unable to perform on the show because of a writers strike, a recording of her 2006 performance was aired instead. I loved it anyway.)

And tonight, I’ll watch the last time as Love, 73, and a large cluster of musicians recreate – as closely as a live performance can, I think – Spector’s Wall of Sound. And I imagine, me being me, I’ll be a little misty-eyed as the performance comes to close. That’s okay. I’ll make sure I have some tissues at hand.

Here’s Love’s performance of “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” from last year:

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