As we barrel closer and closer to December 25th, most people are already indulging in their yuletide traditions. However, much like last year, 2021 shows another spike in Covid cases that are leaving plenty of traditions unfulfilled. Family and friends that make an annual gathering are being forced to reconsider for a second year in a row, and for many, it just doesn’t feel like Christmas at all.
Maybe that’s why Darlene Love’s ‘Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)’ resonates way more than ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ does at this point. Mariah Carey provides the escapist (and inescapable) joy and jolly, while Love keys in on the melancholy that comes with separation at the most wonderful time of the year. If you can’t see a loved one this holiday season, Love knows how you feel, and will happily belt out a song that cuts through most of the schlock of Christmastime.
Another figure who had a strong appreciation for Love and her Christmas blues was David Letterman. For nearly three decades straight, Letterman made it an annual tradition to end his last show before Christmas by having Love as a musical guest performing ‘Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)’. It was a tradition that transcended networks, shows, and even decades.
One of the best parts of the performance came during the saxophone solo. CBS Orchestra member Bruce Kapler took the solo in increasingly elaborate fashion over the years, often integrating props or grand entrances into his section of the song. He’s been in presents, snow globes, sleighs, and even floated down from the ceiling on wire. It was an extra goofy layer of panache that helped keep the tradition fresh.
Nothing could stop Love’s annual performance of the song. Nothing except for the 2007 Writer’s Strike — apparently you need writers for a live performance? A re-run of Love’s performance from the previous year was shown instead, and by the following year, Love was back to belt out the song live once more.
When Letterman retired in 2014, so too did the tradition of having Love sing her most famous song. These days, Love has moved the tradition over to The View. That’s certainly a step down from Letterman, but we should all be happy that Love is still busting out the Christmas classic on network TV. It just wouldn’t be Christmas without her.
Check out the full collection of Letterman performances down below.