Putting the Love in Christmas

by Keith Loria

With Dec. 25 on the horizon, chances are if Christmas music is being played on the radio, Darlene Love’s 1963 hit Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) is in the rotation, as it has been one of the most popular songs of the season for decades.

Love rose to prominence in the 60s as a session vocalist, and although she supported all the great singers in Phil Spector’s arsenal of performers with her glorious background vocals — including such tunes as He’s a Rebel, He’s Sure the Boy I Love, Be My Baby, and You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling — she was rarely credited on the liner notes of the records.

Still, those in the industry knew what a force she was, and that information eventually was known by the listening audience. Love is ranked No. 84 on Rolling Stone’s top 100 singers of all time, and she was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2011.

On Nov. 18, she’ll head to the Ridgefield Playhouse for an evening titled A Darlene Love Christmas: Love for the Holidays.

Keith Loria: Music fans can’t think about Christmas without thinking of you. How has that shaped your career?

Love: I’m happy they call me the Christmas Queen, because I always end up doing Christmas things. I’m headed to a recording session now for a commercial to do a song about the Wooden Soldiers. I always change over from my regular show to my Christmas show in November. That gives me enough time to get all those shows in. People are shopping and are in the spirit of giving.

KL: You’re headed to the Ridgefield Playhouse on Nov. 18 for your Love for the Holidays tour. What can those coming out to the venue expect?

Love: I do all the Christmas songs that I recorded with Phil Spector on the Christmas album, and of course I have to do the golden oldies, although they don’t sound like oldies anymore. It sounds as if I recorded them a couple of years ago. My fans always enjoy them and sing them along with me, very powerful and strong.

KL: What is it that you enjoy about doing a Christmas show every year?

Love: I think it’s the happiness that it brings to people. It gives them a chance to think about what’s really going on in their lives and takes them away from the normal everyday things. It gives them a perspective of what’s happening in the world. And for that little time that I have them, I give them a little joy, and that really makes me happy. I so much enjoy singing those songs.

KL: David Letterman calls Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) his favorite song, and before retiring, would have you come on his show and kick off the Christmas season with a live rendition each year. What did that mean to you?

Love: Dave is the one who made it so popular around the world. I know a lot of my fans miss me on that show, but they can catch me on The View now instead. I have a brand-new audience in the daytime. I’ll be doing that on Dec. 15.

KL: What was Christmas like for you as a youngster? Was there a lot of singing in the Love household?

Love: Growing up was really a special time for us. My mother and father passed, but it used to be a really, really great time for family. I lived in California, and all my relatives would come over — grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins — and we would all get together for Christmas. I have four siblings and it was so much fun. We never got our Christmas tree until Christmas Eve, and when we woke up, we would see the tree all decorated and the presents under the tree.

KL: How have you carried over those traditions with your family today? What is the Christmas season like for you now?

Love: My daughter lives in Connecticut along with her husband and my granddaughter, and every other year, my son and his wife and their kids come here for Christmas. That’s why I never let them give me a job on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. I need a couple of days to plan and prepare. I love when the family gets together. It’s a time to be grateful and give gifts back and forth to each other and shower the house with love — and music.

KL: With being on the road so much in December, does that make it difficult to buy gifts and prepare for the season?

Love: Sometimes I can buy little things on the road when I’m traveling. I was in Canada right before Christmas one year and I was able to buy a lot of things you wouldn’t see here in New York. Of course, now all the kids are grown and they don’t look at it the way they did when they were little, so we get together and give little thankful gifts to one another and we have a big, huge meal.

KL: Once Christmas is over, what do you have on tap for 2018?

Love: I’m trying to get to Europe. My whole thing is about entertaining and people enjoying what they are coming to hear. I try to do my very best when I hit the stage, and I just want my fans to have a great time singing along to the classic songs they love.