Classic Track: “He’s A Rebel”
Born Darlene Wright in Hawthorne, California, and christened Love by Phil Spector, Darlene was a member of the vocal group the Blossoms and an A-list singer on the talented but wily producer’s sessions. Knowing in his bones the Gene Pitney song “He’s a Rebel” would be a hit, instead of crediting the Blossoms, Spector rushed it out as the Crystals who were signed to his Philles label. Love was also the secret weapon on the Bob B. Soxx and the Bluejeans singles, “Why Do Lovers Break Each Others Hearts”, and “Not Too Young to Get Married.” Her unmistakable tone with no-nonsense, girl group attitude has backed-up Elvis (she and the Blossoms were part of the ’68 comeback special), Sonny and Cher, Papa John Phillips, Little Steven Van Zandt and his boss, Bruce Springsteen.
Career Highs: We’d have to ask her what she thought of singing on Cheech and Chong’s “Basketball Jones” or if her turns as Danny Glover’s wife in the Lethal Weapon movies were thrills to her, but we loved them. Maybe her heart sang when she headlined her own one-woman show, Portrait of a Singer, or when she went to Broadway as Motormouth Mabel in the musical adaptation of the John Waters story, Hairspray.
Career Low: Going uncredited on all the Spector productions (she eventually won a lawsuit that helped her collect on some unpaid royalties).
Essential Listening: “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” is the song for which she’s probably best known outside of “He’s A Rebel”; you can also hear her every year as background vocalist on the seasonal hit, “The Monster Mash.” “He’s Sure the Boy I Love” and “(Today I Met) The Boy I’m Gonna Marry” are Love’s other great shots in the spotlight. Her hits are all compiled on The Sound of Love: The Very Best of Darlene Love and Da Do Ron Ron: The Very Best of the Crystals, issued by Sony/Legacy Recordings.
And if you like that you’ll like: “Lord, If You’re A Woman” (“give a sister a hand”), tells a story about someone who’s been had and if you have been, you’ll say amen.
What She’s Doing Now: Darlene Love took her rightful place in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame when she was inducted on March 14, 2011. On March 2, 2014, she accompanied director Morgan Neville onstage at the Academy Awards to accept the Oscar for Twenty Feet From Stardom, a documentary about the lives of background vocalists. As part of her acceptance speech, Love sang a portion of the Gospel classic, “His Eye on the Sparrow,” in acknowledgement of how music and faith carried her through the hard times.
Watch the action: Love With Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band in 2009
This column has been updated from when it originally appeared on February 22, 2011, under my byline, in Crawdaddy!
Filed under: Arts and Culture, film, Gospel, Roots of Rock'n'Soul, What Makes A Legend, background vocalist, Best Documentary, Darlene Love, He's A Rebel, Look who's smiling now, music doc, Oscars 2014, Phil Spector, raw deal, the Crystals, Twenty Feet From Stardom