Friday, December 19, 2014


I can really do without a lot of the Christmas bullshit. All the running around, list checking, requisite shopping, face stuffing; it gets old, particularly when you see people just lapping it up, full bore, with money flying all over the place. Before you start muttering "bah humbug", let me fill you in. It's not cynicism, it's stepping back and taking stock at what's become of us. When you look at it objectively, we've all been programmed since we were toddlers that this is the time of year to blow our collective wads. So much so, that if you don't fall into line, you're urged to "get into the spirit". WTF? Count me out, stick your red bow where the sun don't shine.

Love on her way to rehearsal, yesterday.
That said, there is a huge counterpoint that is hard for me to aptly explain. Darlene Love. Outside of seeing my family, her annual appearance on Letterman singing "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" is the highlight of my holidays. Sounds crazy, I know. You wouldn't believe it, I turn into a choked up old softy. I can't really explain it. There are a number of reasons but it still doesn't add up. Love has performed the song on Letterman's show every year since 1986 (with the exception of one year when the performance was a rerun due to a Writers Guild strike). In the earliest appearances, it was just a small band behind her, but year after year more musicians and background singers were added. Strings, brass, bells, choir, the whole thing.

Jack Nitzsche, Darlene Love, Phil Spector

If you're familiar with the original song, you know that it was produced by Phil Spector, a classic example of his Wall of Sound, arranged by Jack Nitzshe, and utilizing demigods of the studio, the Wrecking Crew. That's part of what makes these performances so special. Putting together a band of this size, with all of the assorted components on the original, is no easy feat. Doing it while trying to replicate the actual sound and arrangement of the original is even harder. But because the song is rehearsed and performed every year with many of the same players, they have it down. To top it off, Love's voice has aged well, sounding much the same as it did on her original version recorded over fifty years ago.

This years performance on Letterman is tonight, and it's bittersweet. Letterman is retiring and this will be her last appearance on the show. It'll be all over the internet tomorrow, but in the meantime, check the video mash up of past appearances above, and watch it until the end. The montage of Letterman greeting Love over the years is heartwarming (did I just say that?). For a chuckle, check the video linked below, a claymation video of her singing "Christmastime For Jews", an old short from Saturday Night Live.
Update, 12/20: Here's the clip from last night (click on the photo above).


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