You get the sense James Brown had never even heard this song two seconds before someone handed him the sheet music. Like, they just started the backing track, and he screamed out the first lyric, “Bells will be ringing!” And the baffled sound engineer was thinking about saying, “Why don’t we hit an actual note, James,” but then was just like, “Fuck it, it’s gold.” In all seriousness, Brown’s interpretation of Charles Brown’s 1960 hit is inimitable. Rather than the inwardly brooding Henley, Brown knows exactly what’s up here: his girl done him wrong and she needs to see the light and make it back by Christmas Eve (or New Year’s Eve night). He changes the lyrics to impress upon listeners the fundamental dichotomy: this isn’t Christmas. The math doesn’t add up. James Brown is alone on the holidays. He needs his loved ones. He needs joy. He needs to be happy-happy once again. And you got to bring it to him, it’s the least you can do for the hardest working man in show business, and to show you how serious he is about this he spends the last, oh, 49 seconds of the track screaming, “NO MORE SORROW! NO MORE PAIN!” in between horn blasts, (likely) stage prostrations, and hi-fiving from the engineers in the booth.
Which “Please Come Home for Christmas” is for you?