Saturday Single No. 217

There’s been precious little commentary over the nearly four years I’ve been writing this blog about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I’ve made a comment here or there, perhaps noticing one group or performer’s induction. But I’ve not made a big deal out of it, and I don’t pay nearly as much attention to the Hall as I used to during the Hall’s early years. So it took me a couple of days to notice earlier this week when the Hall announced its 2010 inductees.

They are performers Alice Cooper, Neil Diamond, Dr. John, Darlene Love and Tom Waits; record executives Jac Holzman and Art Rupe; and, in the category of “Award for Musical Excellence,” Leon Russell. (That last category used to be called Sidemen, and I think changing it was a mistake; “Award for Musical Excellence” makes it sound like a lifetime achievement award or something that’s of lesser merit than the performers’ category, and a “Sidemen” honor – at least to me – did not sound as it if diminished the individual’s contributions.)

I can’t really speak to the careers of the executives; I know Holzman was the founder of Elektra Records, which was a good label, and I recognize the name of Art Rupe but don’t know anything else about him. So I’ll pass on comment there.

But I can speak to the list of performers. I think it’s a good group. I don’t necessarily know a lot of work by all of them – I’ve never been a fan of much that Alice Cooper did, and Waits can be a challenging listen – but I don’t think this is a group of performers that caused a lot of cringing among fans and critics when it was released this week.

For me, it was difficult to sort out which name on the list was most pleasing: Neil Diamond provided solid radio fare during my few years of devoted Top 40 listening, and after a few years when I paid little attention, his work in the past few years has pleased me as well. Dr. John and Leon Russell are unique musicians who bring with them expressions of their roots and individual visions; those are roots and visions I happen to like a great deal.

But probably the name on this year’s list that made me smile widest was that of Darlene Love. A member of the Blossoms and a solo artist for Phil Spector when that mad genius was perfecting his Wall of Sound, Love was – as a blogging friend once told me – Spector’s “go-to girl when the vocal had to get done right now.” Along with her work with the Blossoms and on her own, she also sang lead vocals on Spector’s “He’s A Rebel,” which was credited to the Crystals. She was – along with Ronnie Bennett of the Ronettes – the female voice of the Wall of Sound.

And she gets some extra affection here for providing me with one of the three Christmas recordings I offer here each year. On the 1963 album, A Christmas Gift For You, Spector had Love sing what is in my mind the greatest pop song ever written or recorded about the holiday season: “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).”

I’m not the only one who thinks so. The song and recording receive pretty much the same accolades each December when Love performs the song on David Letterman’s late-night television show, a performance that has been an annual event since 1986. (A writer’s strike in 2007 resulted in a tape of her 2006 performance being offered, according to Wikipedia.) This year’s performance will take place next Thursday, December 23.

So, because only a few posts remain until Christmas and to honor Darlene Love on her selection for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, here is last year’s performance of “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”on the Late Show with David Letterman. And it’s today’s Saturday Single.


One Response to “Saturday Single No. 217”

  1. Paco Malo says:

    Congratulations to Leon Russell, whatever they call the award.

    For this week’s post over at Gold Coast Bluenote, I selected the 1995 version of Darlene Love doing Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home) on Letterman. I really liked the tempo and also the way Paul Shaffer crowded the musicians around Darlene, just the way Spector would when he originally created his mono wall of sound. But any way you slice it, this is just about the best Christmas song around.

    My personal favorite though is still Chuck Berry’s 1958 Run Rudolf Run. This time of year I always have images of ‘Santa taking the freeway down’ ‘dancing in my head.’

Leave a Reply