New York Daily News
At long last, Darlene Love makes it into rock’s Hall of Fame
March 13, 2011
It may sound strange that when Darlene Love finally accepts her induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at the Waldorf-Astoria tomorrow night, she’ll be thanking a man who for many years helped keep her out.
It’s just the right thing to do, she says, because even though Phil Spector tried to undercut her career numerous times over the years, he still produced the records that stamped her as a signature voice of rock ‘n’ roll.
“I don’t hate Phil,” she says. “I don’t dislike him. I dislike some of the things he did to me, but if it weren’t for those records he made 50 years ago, I wouldn’t be here today.”
Even with Spector, Love’s path to the Rock Hall has been unlike anyone else’s.
The only No. 1 hit on which she sang lead, “He’s a Rebel” in 1962, was released by Spector under the name of the Crystals.
The song for which she may be best known today, “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” didn’t hit the charts at all when it was released in 1963. It has become a standard in part because every Christmas season David Letterman has her sing it on his show.
Equally significant, though, she’s even better known in the business for leading one of the two or three most important backup vocal groups in rock history, the Blossoms. They sang behind Elvis Presley, Dionne Warwick, Sam Cooke, the Beach Boys and hundreds of others, filling out songs from “Johnny Angel” to “The Shoop Shoop Song.”
That was an impressive achievement that presented a challenge: how she would get her own name out there.
“It’s taken time,” she says. “I feel like every year I’ve made strides in letting people know I’m not a background singer. I’m a singer.”
That’s one reason, she says, “why I’ve never gone on the oldies circuit, where you do one or two songs and leave. One of the best things I did was move back to New York where I could do whole shows at places like the Bottom Line or Joe’s Pub. People saw I was a performer.
“I’ve had great support, too – not just from Dave [Letterman], obviously, but from people like Steve Van Zandt and Bruce Springsteen. When I sang with Bruce at the 2009 Rock Hall concert, the introduction he gave me was unbelievable.”
What may have pushed her over the top in the Hall, though, was Spector’s arrest and eventual conviction in the death of Lana Clarkson. Prior to that, Spector was a key member of the Rock Hall’s nominating committee, where he once described his role as “not letting people in, but keeping them out.”
He often said he was the artist on his records and everyone else was an instrument.
Only in 2007, with Spector focused on his legal situation, did the Hall induct its first Spector artists, the Ronettes.
“That’s when I knew I’d get in sooner or later,” says Love, who had been nominated twice without making it in.
Fortunately, she had plenty of other things to keep her occupied. She has worked as an actress, playing Danny Glover’s wife in the “Lethal Weapon” series and doing three years as Motormouth Maybelle in Broadway’s “Hairspray.”
Right now she’s helping finish a biographical screenplay of her life. It’s been around for a while, she says, but it had stalled because Spector wouldn’t release music rights. Now Sony owns the songs and she says “it’s moving forward,” with Sony Pictures also interested.
At 72, she says, she’s busier than ever. “My husband was telling me the other day, ‘If you put one more thing on your plate, it’s going to overflow.’ ”
So she doesn’t have too much time to reflect on all her music over the years, though she does say she’ll always stop to listen to a few of them.
“I love hearing songs like ‘Chain Gang’ or ‘Do the Cha Cha Cha,’ when we backed Sam Cooke,” she says. “It’s sad to think that a lot of kids today won’t remember who Sam Cooke was.”
One of her own triumphs was not letting that happen to Darlene Love.
YOU SHOULD KNOW
Here’s the program for the newest class of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame:
Alice Cooper will be inducted by Rob Zombie.
Neil Diamond will be inducted by Paul Simon.
Dr. John will be inducted by John Legend.
Darlene Love will be inducted by Bette Midler.
Tom Waits will be inducted by Neil Young.
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