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Watch Darlene Love perform "Christmas" on Letterman for the last time

David Letterman hates holiday music, according to his band leader, Paul Shaffer, quoted in the New York Times.

But there is one holiday song he makes an exception for — Darlene Love's "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)," originally recorded for the immortal holiday album A Christmas Gift for You, produced by Phil Spector.

Last night, Love, 73, performed her popular song for Letterman one last time. The annual tradition dates back to 1986, when the late-night comedian invited Love on his show to perform the song with the accompaniment of Schaffer and a four-piece rock band.

As the Times notes, every year she's come back, the back-up band has grown. "We started expanding, with the strings and horns and everything else that we need," Shaffer told the Times. "And now, it's really become a party."

And this final performance more than lives up to that. Featuring huge numbers of musicians and back-up singers, as well as Shaffer's typically frenetic piano playing, it would be so easy for Love to get lost in the shuffle. But her voice is so perfect — and so huge — that she rises above it all. She blows the roof off the place, and it makes for a fantastic sendoff for one of TV's best Christmas traditions.

As for when we can next expect to hear Ms. Love perform the classic — we might have to settle for a recording. She's vowed not to perform the song for any other talk show host. "I want to do it just for David," she said in the Times. Letterman is retiring next May. He will be replaced by Stephen Colbert.

Beg her all you want — but the only home she'll come back to is Letterman's.

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