Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) by Darlene Love

The categories of Christmas music includes almost all genres of music. There are incredibly beautiful songs like “Silent Night,” that fill this category of music with musicality and beauty and then there are atrocious and annoying songs like “Holly Jolly Christmas.” Talk show host David Letterman feels the same way about Christmas music except for one exception, Darlene Love’s “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).

This was a special year for this song. After performing this song for almost thirty years on The David Letterman Show, she sang it for the last time earlier in December.

Also, this was the first year, I brought this song into my music classroom and helped my 5th graders perform this song at their Holiday assembly.

I was reminded of how great this song was when I watched 20 Feet From Stardom last summer (I wrote about this film in more detail in this post).  One of the most powerful stories in this film is about Darlene Love. She was working as a maid after giving up on her singing career. She heard “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" on the radio and decided that she recommit herself to music.

This was the story I told my 5th graders when I introduced this song to them. I also told them about how Darlene Love was not given credit for some of the greatest songs in pop music like “He’s A Rebel,” and how only recently she got her due for being one of the greatest singers in the history of popular music.

I taught them how to sing the back up part and the lead vocals. We explored the form and learned how to play the chord progressions on xylophones. At first some of the students who weren’t Christians were no comfortable singing this song. However after discussions on how other classes were going to sing music from different cultures.  Also, the fact that this song was more about the universal value of togetherness and family more than Jesus Christ, my 5th graders really bought into this song.

“Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” is one of the greatest Christmas songs and probably the greatest Christmas pop song because it embraces and reflects its genre authentically and beautifully. Like Phil Specter’s other masterpieces like “Unchained Melody” (which I discuss in this previous post), “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home), features and unbelievable production featuring and incredible, groove, depth of sound and most importantly, soul.

Darlene leans into the melody with a mixture of Gospel, teenage heartache and emotional depth. Throughout all of this there is joy at the thought of being together with the one that she wishes would come home. It is this mixture of feelings, which reflects not what Christmas used to be about, but what Christmas and holidays in general have become for so many people in our culture.

There’s nothing saccharine, cheesy or campy about “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)."  It’s spirited in expression, and its rocks.  What else could want in a Holiday song?

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