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Sunday, December 21, 2014

Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)

Welcome to the twenty-first day of THE POP CULTURE ADDICT'S ADVENT CALENDAR, and for today, I am going to keep this short, yet sweet.

Mainly because today happens to be the seventh day of a seven day stretch at work, and well, let's face it.  We all know what stores are like around the holidays.

Anyway, one of the key elements of any holiday celebration is the annual traditions that all of us have.  Maybe you enjoy decorating the Christmas tree as a family.  If you celebrate Hanukkah, maybe you each designate a candle on the menorah to be lit by one individual family member.  Or, maybe you gather around the karaoke machine to watch your 94-year-old grandmother singing a rousing chorus of "Santa Baby".

Okay, that last one was a little bit disturbing.

The point is that we all have our own holiday traditions that we hold true and dear.  And, it sort of makes me sad to know that this past Friday, one holiday tradition that people got used to for almost thirty years just ended.

"The Late Show with David Letterman" is slated to end its run on CBS in May 2015, as David Letterman has decided to retire after being a talk show host for three decades.

(Remember, he started off on NBC in 1983 before moving to CBS ten years later.)

Well, on December 19, 2014, Letterman hosted his annual Christmas episode, and it was pretty much like any other holiday show he has hosted.  He's had a few guests on, shared a few laughs, read out a Top 10 list, and always concluded the show with a rousing performance of this Christmas classic.

That's the song "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)", as performed by Darlene Love.  She has been a guest on David Letterman's show every year since 1986 (minus 2007, as the writer's strike was still in full swing, and no new episodes of any television program were filmed until it was resolved), and each time she performed that song, it brought the audience to their feet.  It certainly is a great song, and Darlene Love certainly knew how to belt it out.

David Letterman must have thought so too.  One of the reasons why Love was always requested to play on the last show before Christmas was because Letterman had always said that her singing on his show was the highlight of his Christmas celebration.

It is unclear as to what Darlene Love is going to do on future Christmases.  I suppose when Stephen Colbert takes over Letterman's time slot in 2015, he could continue the tradition if he wanted to.  But I don't believe that will happen for the sole reason that Darlene Love singing that song will forever be a Letterman tradition.  One that will definitely be missed as the years pass by.

But do you know how that song first came to be?  And do you know when Darlene Love first recorded it?

Well, the answer to the second question is 1963.  That's right.  "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" was first released on November 22, 1963 (eerily the same date as the assassination of John F. Kennedy), and was included as one of the songs featured on "A Christmas Gift for You from Phillies Records".  The compilation also included selected favourites from other artists such as The Crystals and The Ronettes.

But I suppose one could argue that a then twenty-two year old Darlene Love was the star of the album.  In addition to "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)", Love also contributed versions of "White Christmas", "Marshmallow World", and "Winter Wonderland" to the compilation.

But the story behind the recording of "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" is an interesting one because initially Darlene Love was not intended to sing it.

When record producer Phil Spector was recording the material that would be used for the holiday album, he wanted his then girlfriend (who later became his wife) Ronnie Spector of The Ronettes to do the lead vocals. 

But a funny thing happened at the recording studio when it came down to Ronnie recording the vocals.  They were okay, but something wasn't quite right.  Ronnie tried to put in as much emotion into singing the song as possible, but it didn't seem like it was enough.

With the album deadline running close, the decision was made for Darlene Love to take over the main vocals for "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)".  And as we well know, the decision ended up being a good one.  Darlene Love's version quickly became very popular over the decades, and it is easily considered to be one of Love's signature songs.

And, of course, while Love's version is the original one, several artists have come up with their own versions over the last five decades.  U2 released their own version as part of the compilation for "A Very Special Christmas" in 1987.

And, Mariah Carey released a version as well for her second Christmas album.

But, I don't think that anyone could even comparably come close to Darlene Love's own version.  Rolling Stone Magazine listed the song at the top of their list of "The Greatest Rock 'n Roll Christmas Songs", saying that "nobody could ever match Love's emotion and sheer vocal power".

And sadly, this Christmas, a tradition ended.  For what it was worth though, her final performance on Letterman was absolutely wonderful.

And coming up on Day #22, I hope to make you laugh with another FUNNY MONDAY posting.

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