One of the many reasons I miss David Letterman's late-night television offering is about this time every year I could always look forward to singer Darlene Love's inspiring "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)."
Sometime in the early 1980s Letterman began having Love, who was eventually inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2011, be on the show to perform that seasonal hit. If you are aware of at least one of Love's performances, you'd probably agree that it was impossible not to feel good by the time she was done with her interpretation of the hit that dates to 1963.
Sure, I love the traditional Christmas songs and enjoy singing "Jingle Bells" as much as the next guy, but I also enjoy many of the contemporary tunes that have become to be regarded as classics. None, however, rank close to "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" -- at least for me. The driving music itself, the catchy lyrics and the overall presence of Love were an unbeatable combination.
I have always been surprised that Love never gained the overall acceptance I thought she deserved. Obviously, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction was well-deserved, but I still think most music fans have little or minimal knowledge of her talent.
This is the woman who was ranked No. 84 among Rolling Stone magazine's "100 Greatest Singers" and was one of the central figures of producer Phil Spector's driving rock style and sound of the early and mid-1960s.
She also has a history with some of the top girl groups of that era, and she sang with the likes of Sam Cooke, Dionne Warwick, Bill Medley, the Beach Boys, Elvis Presley, Tom Jones, and Sonny and Cher. Yet her most familiar work may be from her annual December appearance on David Letterman when she would belt out "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)."
Speaking of the holidays, here are my picks for the top five contemporary holiday songs:
1. "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)," Darlene Love: There is an interesting YouTube mash-up of this song, one that ties together about 10 different years' worth of Love's Letterman performances. I highly suggest it.
2. "Sleigh Ride," Ronettes: Ronnie Spector is another overlooked talent. The only better female voice that rose to prominence in the 1960s probably belongs to Love.
3. "Do They Know It's Christmas," Band Aid: This iconic performance has become another holiday staple. It was recorded to assist famine relief in Ethiopia in the mid-'80s.
4. "Last Christmas," Wham!: This song reached No. 1 in Slovenia and Sweden, and Wham! also donated all proceeds to famine relief in Ethiopia.
5. "All I Want for Christmas is You," Mariah Carey: Carey's recording is probably the most widely known, but the best performance might belong to Olivia Olson in the 2003 "Love Actually" film.