Darlene Love‘s annual television performance of “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” was essentially orphaned after “Late Show With David Letterman” went off the air in 2015, putting an end to the 28-year streak that had the music legend singing her signature holiday song with Paul Shaffer‘s band on Letterman’s last original show before Christmas each December. But they all reunited — not over the air, but on YouTube — for a resumption of the tradition, nine years after the last time this particular caroling took place on CBS.
Watch the video, below.
Love has sung the modern standard she originated on “The View,” but her song has not had a regular nighttime slot since 2014. She recently sang it on the Rockefeller Center prime-time special with Cher, who also asked Love to perform it with her on her recent Christmas album. But Love still has some feelings about never having been asked to do it by herself on that annual New York City-based special.
Asked by Letterman in the new 10-minute video if her appearance on the tree-lighting special was a first, Love said, “They wouldn’t hire me for that. Isn’t that crazy?,” noting that other guests had sung it in her stead.
“That’s bullshit,” blurted Letterman. He added, “And I hope I haven’t ruined anyone’s holiday.”
“No, because that’s exactly what Cher said, but I’ll let you say that,” said Love. She added, “It’s another circle [having done it with Cher]. I was talking with my husband about it. It’s like with you guys (too) — it’s a complete circle we share.”
“Now when you say your husband,” inquired Letterman, “I’m just trying to put two and two together here. You’re married to Mike Love?” (She established that she did not take her name from a Beach Boy.)
Shaffer piled on with more incorrectness, asking if she hadn’t “married Robert Evans for a certain period of time.”
Shaffer was then easily coaxed into his famous impression of Cher singing “O Holy Night,” which he remembers from a Sonny and Cher Christmas special from the early ’70s that had William Conrad as a guest.
“Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” first appeared on record as the climax of the 1963 album “A Christmas Gift for You From Phil Spector.” Written by Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry with Spector, it was the only original song on that album, which otherwise had mostly had girl groups doing covers of secular holiday classics. The tune has come to be regarded by some as the greatest Christmas song of the post-crooner era.
Letterman recalled how, when Love first sang “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” on his NBC series in 1986, it was with just Shaffer and the house band, with no additional players or backup singers, and then it grew. “Musicians in the band would appear from the sky area… And then at the end, speaking of litigation, I can’t tell you the amount of lawsuits from audience members who had inhaled the styrofoam snow. They had aspirated it, and it required pulmonary surgery.”
On a serious note, Love thanked the former late-night host for kickstarting both her career and the song’s popularity. (Her debut with it on “Late Night” came a few years after it started to regain popularity due to its prominent usage in the film “Gremlins.”)
“David, I want you to know you are the reason that my career took off,” she said. “Because I really wasn’t working that much. I was really trying to get this solo career going” in the fallow decades after the demise of the girl-group song she was part of in Spector’s stable. “And by the fact that I came on your show every year, I got more work.”
The video segment ended with Love belting out the lonesome holiday anthem with just Shaffer and some background singers, with Letterman and longtime cohort Barbara Gaines looking on.
Love and Cher have not been the only ones resurrecting the tune this holiday season. U2, which covered the song on record for “A Very Special Christmas” in the late 1980s, just reintroduced it as a surprise in their set at Sphere in Las Vegas. It was the first time U2 performed it live since 1987.