Darlene Love’s Final Letterman Performance of “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”

Darlene Love Baby Please Come Home
Chimesfreedom has previously noted that Darlene Love‘s “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” is among our favorite Christmas songs and favorite pop songs of all time. So, with David Letterman retiring, we will miss Love’s annual appearance on CBS’s Late Show with David Letterman to sing the song written by Phil Spector, Ellie Greenwich, and Jeff Barry.

Unfortunately, Love has stated that out of respect for Letterman, she will not take the annual tradition to another talk show. Fortunately for us, Friday night we got one more massive performance of the song, which started out as a tradition on Letterman’s NBC Late Night show back in 1986 when she was only accompanied by Paul Shaffer and a four-piece rock band. Check out the final Late Show performance of the song that originally appeared on the 1963 album A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector.

Why did Love stay on top of the piano after the song? Love explained to the New York Times that she knew she would start crying if Letterman hugged her, so she remained on top of the piano knowing “Dave ain’t coming up here.” Even so, you see her holding back the tears after Letterman shakes her hand. Thanks to both Love and Letterman for a wonderful tradition.

Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    Goodbye to Stephen Colbert and Craig Ferguson

    Geoff Peterson Voice

    Josh Robert Thompson and Craig Ferguson

    It has been a bad week for innovative television, with Stephen Colbert’s The Colbert Report ending Thursday and The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson ending Friday. Of course, we have not seen the last of these men. Although Colbert will leave behind his Colbert Report persona, he will be taking over for David Letterman. And we can only hope that we will be seeing more of Craig Ferguson, who for now continues to host the weekly syndicated game show, Celebrity Name Game, and to do a stand-up tour.

    I have felt a special pop-culture bond with Colbert for some time. About a year before he began his run on The Colbert Report, I went with a friend to a taping of The Daily Show. At first, the audience was disappointed to learn that Jon Stewart was taking a rare night off, but Stephen Colbert filled in for Stewart well, foreshadowing that he would one day have his own show. At one point during a commercial break, Colbert was goofing around and leaned against his desk with his arms in the air playing to the studio audience, “I’m Ultraman!” Nobody laughed but me, and he nodded at me saying, “We’re the only ones who know who Ultraman is?” as I nodded back. As a kid, inspired by the Japanese television series on my Midwestern black and white TV, I used to pretend I was Ultraman as I played in my backyard. In the New York City studio, though, I found joy in discovering a connection so far away from my childhood home.

    This week, Colbert ended The Colbert Report with an over-the-top final episode. It was funny and illustrated his numerous big-name connections. Check out the farewell of “We’ll Meet Again” with numerous celebrity cameos, starting at around the 1:10 mark in the video below (although Colbert actually ended the show with another song, “Holland, 1945” by Neutral Milk Hotel, playing over the final credits, apparently in a nod to his family).

    Craig Ferguson’s final week on his show, which also began in 2005, has been relatively relaxed, hip, and low-key, consistent with his approach in the late-night spot. Still, he gave us several treats this week, such as an introduction to Josh Robert Thompson, the man behind the remotely controlled skeleton Geoff Peterson (see video at end of post).

    Whereas The Colbert Report seemed so much a product of our time with its satire of cable TV politics, Ferguson’s show has always been simultaneously cutting toward the future and the past. Kids liked him, but so did my mom. Ferguson’s rejection of late-night norms has been innovative, even as his show with a talking skeleton sidekick and other outrageous antics nodded to a past of Ernie Kovacs, Sid Caesar, and Imogene Coca.

    Ferguson was refreshing for the way he seemed less connected to our modern celebrity-driven media, even while interviewing celebrities. Like Colbert, his final episode also featured a song with celebrity cameos, using the quirky choice of “Bang Your Drum,” a song about carving your own path by Scottish band Dead Man Fall (see video above, which begins as a music video and ends with Ferguson performing with a band and choir).

    Like a real late-night conversation in your home or dorm, Ferguson’s interviews with a guest could easily slip into an insightful discussion of famous painters or philosophers while still being funny. His monologues could touch on honest personal experiences as his did when he famously discussed his own alcoholism. In one of his great interviews, Dr. Cornel West told Ferguson, “You have a spirituality in your honesty.” So, it does not surprise me to hear that Ferguson recently explained how a conversation with Desmond Tutu affected the way he is leaving The Late Late Show.

    We live in a crazy time where computer hackers can undermine a movie and where a former vice president gets air time to defend the practice of torture, so we desperately need the satirists like Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart. I will miss The Colbert Report, even as I play my DVD of the show’s Christmas special.

    But I will miss Ferguson’s nightly show even more. Most nights, I could not stay up late enough to watch The Late Late Show, so I actually saw Ferguson less often than the earlier Colbert Report. But on nights when I could not sleep, because of a thunderstorm, loneliness, anger, despair, overwork, or too much caffeine, I found comfort in Ferguson’s honesty and goofiness, providing us something real and direct while our troubles kept us awake.

    Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    Marty Brown Sings “The Little Drummer Boy”

    The LIttle Drummer Boy

    Country singer Marty Brown recently performed a live version of the Christmas classic “The Little Drummer Boy.” Accompanied by harmonica and fiddle, Brown shows his great singing voice especially when he takes the song into the higher register. Check it out.

    A previous Chimesfreedom post recounted the history of the song and TV special of “The Little Drummer Boy.”

    If you want more holiday music from Marty Brown, check out this home recording of “Blue Christmas.” The video is completed by Brown doing his Elvis Presley imitation starting at around the 50-second mark. Check it out below (and for more on Elvis’s connection to “Blue Christmas” check out this story).

    What is your favorite version of “The Little Drummer Boy”? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    Bob Seger on Letterman: “All the Roads”

    This week, Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band appeared on The Late Show With David Letterman to promote the new album Ride Out. Before performing, Seger sat down to talk about his career, including the origin of the name “the Silver Bullet Band” (hint: his manager made it up).

    After the talk, it was time to get down to some music. Seger and the band then performed “All the Roads” from the new album. In a previous post, we had noted that Seger had explained that “All the Roads” is about his career. Check it out.

    Bob Seger and the band are currently on tour.

    What is your favorite Bob Seger song? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    A Hard Rain, Lord Randall, and the Start of a Revolution

    Dylan Hard Rain In singer Dave Van Ronk’s memoir, The Mayor of MacDougal Street, he writes fondly of his memories of the young Bob Dylan playing in New York City in the 1960s. Writing about Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” Van Ronk notes that he does not love all the lyrics. He reveals that the phrase “clown who cried in the alley” reminds him of a velvet painting. But Van Ronk concludes that the overall effect of the song is “incredible.” He also explains that the tune comes from an old Anglo-Scottish Ballad.

    The English Ballad “Lord Randall” opens with similar a structure that Dylan would emulate in “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” with the singer asking questions and then responding with answers. The song begins, ““O where ha you been, Lord Randal, my son? / And where ha you been, my handsome young man?” Sound familiar?

    Like Dylan’s song, “Lord Randall” is melancholy in both sound and theme. The ballad recounts a tragic love story. Lord Randall sings of a broken heart, and by the end of the song we learn that he is dying because his lover has poisoned him. Here is a performance of “Lord Randall” by UK artists Vicki Swan and Jonny Dyer at The High Barn on February 2013.

    In Keys to the Rain: The Definitive Bob Dylan Encyclopedia, Oliver Trager describes Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” as “”[a]s stark a piece of apocalyptic visionary prophesy as anything ever committed” to any media. It was unlike anything else Dylan had written up that time.

    Dylan’s song features a conversation between a father and a son, with alternating descriptions of life and death. Some believe that Dylan started writing the surrealistic poem during the October 1962 Cuban missile crisis. In the liner notes to The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan though, Dylan explained that each line starts a whole new song: “But when I wrote it, I thought I wouldn’t have enough time alive to write all these songs so I put all I could into one.”

    Trager finds some “brightness” among the dark images of the song, including the final stanza when the narrator claims he will “tell it and speak it and breathe it/ And reflect from the mountains so all souls can see it.” It is an ending of defiance in the face of the darkness. Here is Bob Dylan’s singing “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” from a 1963 performance at Town Hall.

    I have always loved the song and found it powerful, but I cannot even imagine what it must have been like to hear it in the early 1960s coming from Dylan standing on stage in a club. When Van Ronk first heard Dylan sing it at the Gaslight, he writes, “I could not even talk about it; I just had to leave the club and walk around for awhile. It was unlike anything that had come before it, and it was clearly the beginning of a revolution.”

    Do you agree that Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” is incredible? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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