Since his first Christmas album in 1981, Kenny Rogers has released at least two holiday LPs in each decade, for a total of nine holiday collections. His latest, Once Again It’s Christmas, became the pop-country legend’s highest-charting LP on Billboard‘s Holiday chart, landing at Number Three when it was released earlier this fall.
On The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon last night, Rogers was joined by the Roots, Fallon’s house band, to perform the melancholic “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” Opening with the often forgotten introductory verse, the slowly paced piano arrangement accentuated the song’s mournful message that becomes poignantly clear in the last five words, “if only in my dreams.”
First recorded by Bing Crosby in October 1943, during World War II, the song was — and remains — especially meaningful for members of the armed services and their families. Its release followed Crosby’s massive hit from the previous year, “White Christmas,” which has gone on to become the best-selling holiday tune of all time. Since that time, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” has been recorded by hundreds of artists, including country acts Johnny Cash, Kenny Chesney, Wynonna and Blake Shelton.
Afterward, Rogers and the Roots put the holiday sentiment on the back burner to deliver a blistering version of “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In),” the first song Rogers took into the Top Ten in 1968 as lead singer of the First Edition. The psychedelic, counterculture tune, with guitar parts on the original hit version played by young session guitarist Glen Campbell, was penned by songwriter Mickey Newbury, who was himself one of Nashville’s first “outlaw” singer-songwriters.
Rogers continues his Christmas and Hits Tour, also featuring Linda Davis, with upcoming shows in Hagerstown, Maryland, on Tuesday (December 15th) and Roanoke, Virginia, on Wednesday (December 16th).