John Sebastian wrote this sentimental ballad for Francis Ford Coppola's You're A Big Boy Now, a coming-of-age film about an awkward young man looking for love in New York City. The Lovin' Spoonful frontman was responsible for the whole soundtrack, but was tasked to write this specific song for an important love scene. He started thinking about all the songs that dealt with lonely musicians on the road and decided to flip the concept and write about a guy waiting for his girlfriend to come home.
"From the singer's perspective, the verses are pleas for a partner to spend a few minutes talking before leaving," Sebastian explained to Marc Myers for the book Anatomy of a Song. "What made the song interesting is that you never knew if the other person was actually there listening or was already gone."
Unfortunately the movie was largely ignored. As for the song, it fared well with a #15 entry on the Hot 100, but was mostly forgotten until Sebastian revived it during an impromptu performance at Woodstock in 1969.
After hitching a ride with the helicopter carrying The Incredible String Band's equipment, Sebastian arrived at the Woodstock festival thinking he'd just be a spectator. But an early afternoon downpour flooded the stage and it needed to be cleared of water before Santana's amps could be set up. Michael Lang, the concert's producer, asked Sebastian to fill in. He took the stage in a tie-dyed white denim outfit and sang five songs, the fourth being "Darling Be Home Soon." He recalled: "The audience didn't identify the song with the movie, since most probably hadn't seen it. Instead, they sort of quieted down and took it in as a love song. My job wasn't to incite but to mellow everyone out until the stage was swept. When I finished, the applause from so many people was loud and wide, and knocked the wind out of me. The feeling was delicious."
The Lovin' Spoonful recorded this with a studio orchestra in just one day. The next morning, however, Sebastian was horrified to learn his vocal take had accidentally been erased and had to be re-recorded. "I did that right away, with the wound still fresh," he said. "What you hear on the record is me, a half hour after learning that my original vocal track had been erased. You can even hear my voice quiver a little at the end. That was me thinking about the vocal we lost and wanting to kill someone."
Zal Yanovsky, the band's lead guitarist, hated the song. He thought it was too sappy and accused Sebastian of losing his rock edge. During one live performance
, Zal can be seen clownishly mocking the frontman as he sings the heartfelt lyrics.
This was used on the CBS crime drama Cold Case in the 2010 episode "Free Love."
Several artists have covered this, including Bobby Darin, Joe Cocker, Slade, The Association, and Bruce Hornsby.