David Letterman dubbed Darlene Love “The Queen of Christmas” after she sang her classic “Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)” for 28 straight years on his show — and for the last five on The View. “It is my favorite time of the year,” the onetime Phil Spector hitmaker tells Billboard.
But while Christmas has taken Love (nee Wright) all over the world, she hasn’t quite cleared her wish list yet — being part of the annual Christmas tree lighting at New York’s Rockefeller Center.
“I keep saying I want to do that,” notes Love. “I’ve never done it — but it’s never too late. You never say never. I still really do believe I will get to light that one. I know just about all the people who are involved with it, but like everything else it’s politicky and I understand that, too. I’ve put this out there long enough; One day I think someone’s gonna say, ‘What were we waiting for? Why haven’t we done this?!'”
Until then, however, Love is happy to be part of other holiday celebrations — including being part of the cast of the new Netflix movie Holiday Rush, which premiered last month, and a run of concerts up to Dec. 22. Jason Derulo, meanwhile, will join Love for her appearance on the Dec. 20 episode of The View.
“Christmas is a big part of me that I identify with,” acknowledges Love, who also recorded “All Alone on Christmas” for Home Alone 2 in 1992. “It’s not just the song. I came from a Christian home in Los Angeles and we always celebrated Christmas. It was a big thing, with multiple families in one spot. I was always in Christmas programs at church where we prepared for weeks and weeks to do programs with other churches.
“And it still is a big part of my life. It’s harder because most of the family is in California and I’m in New York, but we still celebrate Christmas together. It really is a big part of my life.”
Love recorded “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” for 1963’s A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector. The song was written by Spector, Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry and played to Love over the phone before she recorded it with members of the Wrecking Crew, plus Cher and Sonny Bono, in Los Angeles. “I kept saying, ‘You’re gonna do a NEW Christmas song? That’s not gonna work! Nobody wants to hear a new Christmas song,'” Love recalls with a laugh. “But Phil Spector started adding everything, all the bells and whistles and once we finished with it and listened to what we just did, everybody there was like, ‘Boy, I think we’ve got a monster on our hands,’ not really knowing what we were talking about. And here we are over 55 years later….”
“Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” has been covered by scores of artists since its release. Love says her favorites are Mariah Carey’s because “hers is so much like the original…with her great voice,” and U2’s, “because it DOESN’T sound like ‘Christmas (Baby)’, and they had me do all three background vocals on it.”
Love — who credits her continuing stamina on 5 a.m. kickboxing classes five days a week — currently has no plans for a new album to follow 2015’s Introducing Darlene Love, but she’s not ruling it out, either. “We have a few sticks in the fire — it’s just seeing what catches fire,” she says. “Everybody is so busy and the music has changed so much that everyone wants all their ducks in a row and everything lined up before they make any commitments. I’m hoping next year something will come up, recording-wise.” Meanwhile, she’s also thinking good thoughts for Spector, currently in jail for murdering actress Lana Clarkson and not eligible for parole until he is 88.
“Unfortunately, I had predicted years and years ago, ‘One of these days you’re gonna kill somebody,'” Love says. “I do think it was just an accident, but he’s reaping what he sowed. Unfortunately it’s kind of taken away who he was, the person that created that music. He was a genius; He just made a lot of mistakes. Let’s hope he’s in a good frame of mind when he gets out — at least that’s what I pray.”