Video of Final "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" for David Letterman

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A nearly 30-year holiday tradition has been tucked away in the vault.

David Letterman will say goodbye to the Late Show on May 20, 2015, but this past Thursday night he bid a Christmas farewell to a long-standing tradition: a bring-down-the-house performance of "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" by Darlene Love, Letterman's bandleader Paul Schaffer and an all-star orchestra and chorus.

Letterman is a famous curmudgeon, but Schaffer said the comedian made an exception for Darlene Love's performance on his NBC show in 1986. 

Love, who was was one of Motown's greatest back-up singers in the 1960s and early '70s, had hit some hard times by the 1980s, as chronicled in the Oscar-winning documentary 20 Feet from Stardom. Love told The New York Times that she's particularly grateful to Letterman for helping to re-energize her career by inviting her to be a part of his Christmas show. As a final tribute to Letterman, Love told The Times that she vows not to perform "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" on any other television program in the future. 

So it was a particularly emotional evening, Dec. 18 when Love took the microphone to belt the Christmas classic one final time for Letterman.

(On a personal note, I've been in the audience of the Ed Sullivan Theater on a few occasions for Letterman's Christmas show. It's a bizarre broadcast, including someone  knocking a meatball off the top of a Christmas tree with a football, a joke—told every year—involving some pot-smoking radio disc jockeys and the Lone Ranger, and Darlene Love. There's nothing quite like it and it's equal parts sweet, silly and sentimental.)