Soul Serenade: Darlene Love, “All Alone On Christmas”
It’s been a difficult week. Frankly, it’s been tough for me to find inspiration for this column, or any of my other writing assignments. I’ve tried to stay away from the news, but it’s impossible to forget what happened last Friday.
The fact that the tragedy happened during the Christmas season makes it that much more poignant. We will go forward with our celebrations, because that’s what we do. Hopefully we will also find time to reflect on where we find ourselves these days, and how we got here. I know I will.
For more than 25 years, Christmas has not been complete without Darlene Love’s annual appearance on Late Night With David Letterman to sing “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).” The song was written by Phil Spector, Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry, and first appeared on the legendary Spector-produced album A Christmas Gift For You, which was released in 1963.
Love’s annual appearance is always special because her stirring performance takes place in the midst of a huge cast of musicians and singers. There is a full string section, a splendid baritone sax solo by Bruce Kapler (who left Paul Shaffer’s band earlier this year and was replaced by Aaron Heick), and a deluge of faux snowflakes falling on artists and audience alike.
Love’s appearance this year will take place on Friday, December 21. So tune in, set those DVRs, or consult YouTube the next day. A video of her performance from last year is below.
I want to talk about another Darlene Love Christmas song today however, one that I don’t think gets enough attention because it’s overshadowed by the classic. It’s a record that deserves some holiday love too. I’ve never seen the movie Home Alone 2, but I have to believe that “All Alone On Christmas” is the best thing about it. The song was written by Steve Van Zandt, who also produced the record. Backing another bravura Love performance are the E Street Band, and the Miami Horns, and there is an iconic sax solo from the late Clarence Clemons. Van Zandt was undoubtedly inspired by the earlier Spector record, and his production is a more than respectable homage.
“All Alone On Christmas” was released as a CD single in 1992. The single also included an instrumental version of the song, and a Christmas remix of the Capitols’ hit “Cool Jerk,” which was also part of the film soundtrack. It had been awhile between chart appearances for Darlene Love when “All Alone For Christmas” appeared. The record wasn’t a massive hit, but reached #83 on the Billboard Hot 100, while reaching #31 in the United Kingdom.
Let me be the first to call for a new tradition. How about allowing Darlene Love to sing two songs in her annual Letterman appearance, or letting her appear on two nights during the Christmas season? After all, you can never get enough of a good thing, and we need all the good things we can get.
I want to wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas. This time of year is known as the Season of Light, and I hope that we can all find some of that light in this time in which the darkness threatens to overwhelm us.