Thursday, December 23, 2010

It Wouldn't Be the Holidays Without Her

A few years back, I got into a discussion with a friend when I told her how much I love Christmas. "No," she clarified. "You love the Christmas season. You don't have to deal with the family and the religious stuff." She was right about all of that. I'm a huge fan of the season, with the pagentry and the lights and the deals and the happier mood and the lighter workload and the food and the celebrations and the traditions and yes, the music. Oh, how I love the music of the Christmas season.

As has been noted here in a previous blog post, my creation of a holiday mix each year has become as much of a beloved holiday tradition for me and those who receive it as the airing of A Charlie Brown Christmas or the all-day A Christmas Story marathon on TBS. And yet, as much as I love making and distributing my mix, one holiday tradition I enjoy and look forward to almost as much is the annual night-before-Christmas episode of Late Show with David Letterman.

On this particular episode, there are always two guests: comedian Jay Thomas and the great Darlene Love, brand-new inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Jay comes on first and tells the same story every year, about how when he was younger, he did a gig with Clayton Moore, the former Lone Ranger, and how Jay and his colleague were "herbed up" and got into a car chase with someone who hit their car, while Clayton was still in the back seat. Same story every year, and it always gets the same laughs. Then Jay and Dave try to knock the meatball off the top of Dave's Christmas tree by throwing footballs at it.

Darlene then comes on and simply blows the roof off the joint with her classic holiday tune, one of my all-time favorites, "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)." Blows the roof off. Seriously. It's always great: Darlene is backed Phil Spector–style by Paul Shaffer's band, sax player Bruce Kapler makes a memorable entrance, there's snow at the end, and Darlene just nails it year after year after year. (Eat your heart out, U2.) The performance is such an annual highlight for me that I included her version from 2004, which was one of her best ever, on my 2007 Very Marty Xmas mix. The song is reportedly Dave's favorite holiday tune, and he once called Darlene's performance on his show "the best thing about the holidays." Couldn't agree more.

Oh, and as if those two things aren't enough to get you to watch ... throw in Paul Shaffer's impression of Cher, with her hands in a muff, singing "Oh Holy Night." Classic holiday TV indeed.

So tune in tonight at 11:35 and/or set the DVR for 11:35 and make sure you set it for an hour and 5 minutes, since the show always runs longer than an hour. You may have listened to A Very Marty Xmas a bjillion times already (like I have), but it won't officially be Christmas until you hear Darlene Love singing on Letterman. It's a tradition that really makes the holiday season complete.

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