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Interview: Darlene Love on '20 Feet From Stardom' Oscar and her HOF career

Darlene Love at the 86th Academy Awards.
Darlene Love at the 86th Academy Awards.
Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images

Darlene Love has sung on some of the most legendary songs in rock 'n' roll history, such as “He's a Rebel,” and the holiday treat “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”. But a good part of her career found her singing as a background singer and not as lead.

Christopher Logan
Christopher Logan

That was profiled in the wonderful film “20 Feet From Stardom,” which won a well-deserved Academy Award for Best Documentary at the recent Academy Awards. Love says the anticipation before the announcement was incredible.

“All four of us were holding hands,” she said.

It had been arranged the night before that she would go up on stage if they won the Oscar. And when she got there, she broke into song in one of the highlights of the ceremony. She says she prayed for guidance before going on stage.

“I asked the Lord. His eye is on the sparrow. That's the part of the song that was spontaneous.”

Love also was inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame in 2011.

“That was another plateau in my life and I never thought anything would be better than that or greater than that.”

How does she look back on her career with Phil Spector now?

“I say all the time when I have interviews if it wasn't for his songs, I would not have a career. I can only be glad I was only one of the voices of the Wall of Sound.”

Love's singing of “(Christmas) Baby Please Come Home” has been an annual tradition for 'The Late Show With David Letterman” for 27 years. How did that come about?

“I was doing a show at the Bottom Line called 'Leader of the Pack.' Paul Shaffer was playing Phil Spector in the show. He invited David to come down and see it. David said on his show it was the greatest Christmas song we need to get that girl on this show.”

Love also had a featured role on the old ABC show “Shindig!”

“It was great to be on a rock 'n' roll show, the first of its kind. The network did not want the three black girls on the show. This was in 1964. The producer stood his ground. And after the first three or four months, nobody thought about three black girls. It was a great stride in our life.”

Asked to comment, Donna Loren, who worked with Love on “Shindig!,” agreed.

“Darlene sang background for me on 'Shindig!' As a member of the Blossoms, Darlene became part of the controversy over being on a racially integrated live rock 'n' roll nationwide TV show. She always added her soulful renderings on every show I performed on. We made history for the short time (1964-'66) 'Shindig!' was on the air combining all genres of music and all races uniting on the same stage.”

Asked to name two songs she has recorded that were her favorites, Love said, “Actually, one of the songs I recorded was one for Phil Spector, “Quiet Guy,” and also “Good Good Lovin'.” I still love those two.”

And what songs have she done that people might not know about? She said she is on the soundtrack of the Doris Day film “Move Over, Darling.” “Plus we did a song with Cheech & Chong' called 'Basketball Jones.'” That came about because of her long association with Lou Adler, she said.

She also worked with Nancy Sinatra, and her father, Frank Sinatra, who she described as “amazing.” “You could feel his presence,” she said.

She said she is presently working with Steve Van Zandt recording tracks for a possible album.

What lesson should people take from “20 Feet From Stardom”?

“No no matter what you're doing in life, whatever your dream is, you can pursue it. Whatever your passion is, you have to pursue it no matter what,” she says. “You just have to follow your passion.”


Copyright Steve Marinucci. Please feel free to spread our links on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Reddit, StumbleUpon and other social media sites. Connect with us on Facebook and Pinterest. And don't miss our weekly Beatles news podcast “Things We Said Today” available first on on the weekends, then on iTunes and We are also the author of the ebook Meet a Monkee: Davy Jones.”

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