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A Holiday Tradition Comes to a Close

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Photo Credit: Terrence Antonio James/Chicago Tribune

For 30 years, Darlene Love has been singing “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” on David Letterman’s late night talk show. She always performs it live, a few days before Christmas. But Letterman is retiring in Spring 2015, so tonight is the last night Ms. Love will perform the song on his show. Ever!

Darlene Love recorded the song for Phil Spector’s 1963 album, A Christmas Gift for you from Phil Spector. The album includes “Frosty the Snowman” by The Ronettes and “The Bells of St. Mary” by Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans. Wait, you’ve never heard the album? Well, take a listen here:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/christmas-gift-for-you-from/id336036941

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Photo Credit: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

On the Oscars stage in 2014, Ms. Love belted out an a cappella version of the gospel hymn “His Eye is on the Sparrow.” She did so when “20 Feet from Stardom” won the Academy Award for Best Documentary. Ms. Love starred in the movie, which chronicled the lives of 1960s and 1970s backup singers. She had sung backup on “Chain Gang” by Sam Cook, “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” by The Righteous Brothers, and many, many other songs.

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Photo Credit: City of Chicago

Last year, I went to hear Ms. Love belt out “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” at Chicago’s annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony. I swayed to the music as our city’s fabulous fir towered above Daley Plaza. Glittery imported German ornaments, boot-shaped gluhwein mugs and Austrian nativity scenes sparkled at the Christkindlmarket below.

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Photo Credit: Joshua Bright/New York Times

Yesterday, Dave Itzkoff of the New York Times wrote about Darlene Love and “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home):”

Her association with Mr. Letterman goes back to 1986, when she sang the song on his NBC show, “Late Night,” with the bandleader Paul Shaffer and what was then a four-piece rock group trying to replicate Mr. Spector’s echoing Wall of Sound style.

As Mr. Shaffer said in a telephone interview about his longtime boss: “One thing about Mr. Letterman — he hates Christmas and holiday novelty songs. I could never play ‘Monster Mash’ on Halloween. No, don’t even go near it.”

But, Mr. Shaffer said, Mr. Letterman made an exception for Ms. Love “because of Darlene’s soul.”

Ms. Love’s thunderous and heartfelt performance went so well that she was invited back the next year, and year after year, with more and more musicians joining the occasion.

“We started expanding, with the strings and horns and everything else that we need,” Mr. Shaffer said. “And now, it’s really become a party.”

Above is a compilation of Darlene Love’s performances of “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” on Letterman. Tonight, Dec. 19, at 10:30pm CST on CBS, the 73-year-old powerhouse singer will hit those high notes one last time for the show. You do not want to miss it !

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