David Letterman has said it isn’t Christmas until he’s heard Darlene Love sing “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).”
Love performed her signature song on Letterman’s late-night shows for 28 years. Since Letterman retired from TV, she sings “Christmas” each year on ABC’s “The View.”
For the first time in decades, Love’s annual Christmas tour has been canceled, thanks to the pandemic. Yet the Queen of Christmas was determined to continue her Yuletide tradition by performing a virtual show, “Love for the Holidays.”
The Grammy Award winner and Rock & Roll Hall of Famer will perform such hits as “He’s a Rebel,” “(Today I Met) The Boy I’m Gonna Marry,” “Marshmallow World” and, of course, “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” from Sony Hall in New York City on Dec. 5. Her show is presented locally by the Edmonds Center for the Arts.
Love will never forget her very first Christmas show in 1963.
Love was working at the Bottom Line in Manhattan when the owner asked her to perform all 13 songs on the now-classic album “A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector.” Love is featured on the album with Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans, The Crystals and The Ronettes.
“Nobody was doing Christmas shows during that time,” Love said, adding that there was a line around the block for the Bottom Line show. “I was one of the first.”
In 1986, David Letterman asked Love to perform “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” on his late-night show. Then Letterman asked her back for the next 27 years, before he retired from late night TV in 2014.
“David Letterman got on my bandwagon — or what I call my fanwagon — and I started doing his show every year,” Love told The Daily Herald in a telephone interview from her home in Rockland County, New York. “It opened the door wide open for me to tour all over the country.”
It was her Letterman performances that inspired Love to go on an annual Christmas tour. In fact, Letterman is the one who crowned her the Christmas Queen.
“One of the last shows we did on David Letterman’s show, when he was getting ready to retire, I said, ‘You know, you’re the reason I am who I am today and why I work so much at Christmastime.’ And he was like, ‘Really, I am? Why?’ ‘Because I did your Christmas show every year for 28 years.’
“I will always be so grateful to him for that, not knowing he was really helping me with my career.”
Now 79, Love has been touring with her Christmas show for more than 20 years. What started out as a few shows in New Jersey and New York soon expanded into a U.S. tour. She’s also toured in Europe and Australia.
“I’ve been blessed to have a few Christmas hits,” Love said. “Over the years, my fans wanted me to sing those songs when they see me perform. Most people don’t have their own Christmas songs that they’re known for, but I do.”
In addition to “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” Love’s Christmas hits include “All Alone on Christmas” — which was featured in “Home Alone 2: Lost In New York” — as well as “Marshmallow World,” “Winter Wonderland” and “White Christmas.”
Even though she’s not touring, Love is still busy at Christmastime. She’s appeared on ABC’s “Good Morning America” and NBC’s “Today with Hoda & Jenna” via Zoom, not to mention all the radio shows that ask her to call in. She likes to connect with her fans over Zoom, too.
”I let my fans call me and we sit and we talk, especially the fans who are home alone,” Love said. “It really makes them happy and lifts their spirits, which is what I do when I perform for my fans.”
Love’s Christmas roles are far from over. She was asked to sing “The Spirit of Christmas” for “The Christmas Chronicles 2,” starring Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn. Love plays the role of Grace in Netflix’s hit movie, and also does a big production number alongside Russell.
“They’re making me the Queen of Christmas, that’s for sure,” Love said. “It’s an unbelievable number.”
If you stream
The Edmonds Center of the Arts presents Darlene Love’s “Love for the Holidays” livestream show 8 p.m. Dec. 5. The Grammy Award winner and Rock & Roll Hall of Famer will perform such hits as “He’s a Rebel,” “(Today I Met) The Boy I’m Gonna Marry,” “Marshmallow World” and her signature song, “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).” Tickets are $35. More at www.edmondscenterforthearts.org.