Each Friday, we’re going to feature a version of my favorite Christmas song, “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).” Each time I hear this song, I get chills, especially during Darlene Love’s annual visit to The Late Show with David Letterman to perform her version. No one tops Darlene Love performing this song. This is one of the songs that can make me cry on the right day. As we feature different versions, I want to focus on what makes each of them unique.
U2’s version, off 1989’s A Very Special Christmas, is a fairly straight-forward cover of the original. I’m not sure that I can focus on what makes this so different from original, but rather my own personal connection to the song.
This was the first version of “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” that I ever heard. I’ve criticized Bono at points, but he nails the vocals in this song. There is emotion here, and pain. I recognized it as an eight year old listening to the radio in 1989. That Christmas, my father was in a Philadelphia hospital after receiving a bone marrow transplant—he had been diagnosed with cancer 18 months earlier. As I listened to the lyrics, I heard the pleading, lonely lyrics. They are a near perfect depiction of isolation and sadness. The images of falling snow, lights on the tree, and happy people reminded me of my third grade classroom—everyone had helped decorate the halls and cut stockings out of fuzzy red construction paper and wrote our names on the front. But at home, without my father, there was a giant hole—it was our first Christmas without him.
For me, this song wasn’t about the broken love of a relationship, it was about missing my dad. Part of what is so effective about this song is the lack of a happy ending. No matter how many times that chorus repeats “Christmas” or how much Bono cries out, the person he begs to come home never does. My father came home in March. By the next Christmas, he was dead—the cancer emerged from remission and the bone marrow transplant had done nothing. But, in 1989 at least, I could sign along with “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” and still hope that maybe he would come home.
Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) – U2
Watch the video of U2 performing the song.