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Please Come Home For Christmas: The Story Behind The Seasonal Song Covered By Eagles And Cher
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Please Come Home For Christmas: The Story Behind The Seasonal Song Covered By Eagles And Cher

Bringing some 60s R&B to the holiday season, Please Come Home For Christmas is a song that’s attracted covers from a wide range of artists.

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From James Brown to The Supremes, Otis Redding to Baby Washington, some of the best soul singers ever to have walked the Earth have recorded some of the most memorable Christmas songs of all time. Please Come Home For Christmas, originally released in 1960 by Charles Brown, is among these classics. The sorrow and yearning in the lyrics have appealed to artists throughout the decades, spawning plenty of intriguing covers that challenge the cliché of Christmas as one big happy day – including versions by artists as disparate as Eagles and Cher.

Listen to the best Christmas songs here.

Who wrote Please Come Home For Christmas?

Please Come Home For Christmas was co-written by Charles Brown, the artist who first recorded the song, and Gene Redd. At the time, Redd was an A&R man at King Records (and, later on, Redd would go own to produce Kool And The Gang). King Records, along with its subsidiary labels Federal and Bethlehem, was a forward-thinking company that put out records by dozens of R&B pioneers, including James Brown, Etta Jones, Champion Jack Dupree and Hank Ballard.

The melancholy mood of the song reflects Brown’s background in the blues. Brown had grown as an artist during the 40s, a time when the blues’ popularity was at a peak, and it’s this authenticity that gives Please Come Home For Christmas its feel of longing and hurt. Yet there was also another, more accessible side to Brown; he played piano in Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers, a gentler outfit that smoothed out some of the blues’ rawer emotions. This softer touch is also apparent in Please Come Home For Christmas.

Who originally sang Please Come For Christmas?

Charles Brown was the original artist to sing Please Come Home For Christmas, recording the song that he co-wrote in September 1960, ready for a December release. He was already highly experienced as a performer and songwriter, and – in a familiar story shared by many Black artists of the day – had experienced exploitative treatment at the hands of record companies. Many previous songs he had written, including the incredibly popular Driftin’ Blues, earned little (if any) money for Brown.

Brown was a Texan by birth, and he witnessed how the segregation in Southern clubs became far more difficult to enforce during the R&B boom of the 50s. Talking in a rare TV interview during the 80s, Brown reflected on how white people were only supposed to watch his performances from the club balconies, so they were kept apart from Black audiences near to the front of the stage. “It’s a funny thing, and that’s what really changed the era,” Brown said. “Those white young people, who were sitting up there, they were watching these guys and they said, ‘We wanna get down there.’ They rampaged those places.”

Eagles’ cover version

Please Come Home For Christmas was covered during the 60s by Brown’s fellow R&B artists, including Little Johnny Taylor and James Brown. But it was in the 70s when the song really gained renewed popularity, via new version by Eagles.

In 1978, Eagles were mired in recording hell. They were crafting their sixth album, The Long Run, and were already six months behind schedule. The record company was getting jittery and were pressing the band for progress. Then Eagles’ Don Henley said, “Well, maybe if we give them a Christmas single they’ll get off our backs.”

Henley remembered Please Come Home For Christmas from his youth, and suggested it to the rest of the band, who liked the idea. Two or three days later the song was recorded, and – in the words of producer Bill Szymczyk – the group “gave it to the label and then they did indeed get off our back until it was finished”.

Eagles’ reformulated and updated Brown’s original (even changing the first line from “glad, glad news” to “sad, sad news”), creating a marriage of soul and soft-rock that sits among the best Eagles songs. The band even leaned into the clichés surrounding their Los Angeles lifestyle with the single’s deliberately non-festive artwork, which pictured a bare-chested Eagles enjoying drinks by the pool.

In the 90s, and sticking with the Eagles’ mood of laidback rock, Jon Bon Jovi covered Please Come Home For Christmas, with all proceeds going to charity. First released on the 1992 benefit album A Very Special Christmas 2 – the sequel to one of the best Christmas albums of all time – the Bon Jovi cover was so popular that it was later put out as a standalone single, with a video starring supermodel Cindy Crawford.

Cher’s cover version

Please Come Home For Christmas has proved itself an enduring favourite, and – in a change from its soulful and rock predecessors – is particularly loved by pop artists. Steps, Kelly Clarkson, Hanson and Adam Lambert have all sung the tune. Most famously, George Ezra covered the song, retitling it Come On Home For Christmas. His version reached the UK Top 10 in 2021, though a version by Cher, released two years later, truly brought the song up to date.

Using the “sad, sad news” version of the lyrics for her cover of Please Come Home For Christmas, issued on her her 2023 album, Christmas, Cher created a strong, modern version of this perennial classic that sounds Christmas, sounds Cher, and also honours the beauty of Charles Brown’s original. “I didn’t wanna do Christmas songs as I’d heard them, as I know them,” Cher said, when promoting Christmas. “They were all so different, and I could sing them in different ways and they made me happy.”

Sung in many different ways over the decades, Please Come Home For Christmas continues to make both artists and listeners happy, its lyrics getting to the emotional truth of many people’s experience over the holiday season.

Buy Christmas vinyl and more at the Dig! store.

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