The Voice of Some of Phil Spector's Greatest Creations, a One-Woman Wall of Sound: Darlene Love
February 18, 2011 2:21 PM   Subscribe

On March 14th, the 26th Annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will add 5 new performers to the growing list of well-known musicians. As previously discussed, the 2011 inductees are Alice Cooper, Neil Diamond, Dr. John, Tom Waits and Darlene Love. Though the last name may not be as famous as the four fellows, the chances are you know her voice, from Monster Mash, Rockin' Robbin, or Da Doo Ron Ron. Except her name wasn't credited first on any of those recordings, if it was mentioned at all.

Darlene Wright was born July 26, 1941 in Los Angeles, California, the daughter of a Pentecostal minister. Her family moved to Texas when her father was offered a position at a church in San Antonio, but in 1956 the Wrights moved back to Los Angeles. Darlene sang in school glee clubs and church choirs.

In the 1960s, the member of The Blossoms (formerly The Dreamers), invited Darlene to join them as a new lead singer. The group became probably the most successful unknown group from that era, first for backing a variety of bands (though they had a few releases to their own name), then they were noticed by Phil Spector, especially Darlene Wright. Spector had used The Blossoms and Darlene Wright on a number of songs, but never crediting them directly. On He's a Rebel, it was The Crystals instead of The Blossoms, then Darlene Wright and Fanita James (both members of The Blossoms) joined Bobby Sheen as Bob B. Soxx & The Blue Jeans, who had a hit with a cover of Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah that charted in the US, but still no credit to Darlene Wright. She recorded (Today I Met) The Boy I'm Gonna Marry, and Phil Spector promised he'd credit Darlene. But instead of Darlene Wright, Spector named her Darlene Love, after one of his favorite gospel singers, Dorothy Love Coates. Darlene didn't mind, saying "I figured Phil would just decide to call me something else again two or three records down the road."

But he didn't, and the name stuck, yet Spector still didn't give Darlene Love all the credit she was due. It wasn't until a series of lawsuits were filed in the 1990s against Spector that Love received unpaid royalties.

After the doo-wop of the 1960s faded out, so did much of Love's musical career. She reunited with Spector in the 1970s for Lord, if You're a Woman, reviving some of the old R&B sound for the then-modern dancefloor. There was talk of an album with Spector, but that never panned out. In the 1980s, Darlene Love returned to the spotlight, this time as herself in Leader of the Pack, a jukebox musical featuring songs spanning Darlene's doo-wop career. Some reviews were far from glowing, but memories of a good time remain. In the late 1980s, she hit the silver screen as Trish Murtaugh, wife to Danny Glover's character in the Lethal Weapon movies. And for the past 24 years, her 1963 tune, Christmas (Baby please come home) has returned to David Letterman's night shows (1986, 1995, 2000, 2005, and 2010).

In 2009, Darlene Love was nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and performed with Bruce Springsteen at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 25th Anniversary Concert. Springsteen sang her praises, but her inclusion in the Hall of Fame was not to be ... that year. She was nominated again for the 2011 ceremony, and this time she was accepted.

Bonus links:
Wikipedia entry; Discogs fan-made discography (currently not complete); short bio and lengthy discography of The Dreamers, The Blossoms, and other aliases; Who is Darlene Love?, a site for a bio-pic in the works; Darlene Love World, her official site, though thin on information; an interview on from 2005, about her role in Hairspary, the musical, and her career to date.

Tracks on YouTube, from the incomplete list of Darlene Wright/Love singles
1961 - Son-In-Law - The Blossoms
1962 - The Search is Over - The Blossoms
1962 - He's a Rebel and He's Sure The Boy I Love - The Crystals (recorded by The Blossoms)
1962 - Zip-A-Dee Doo-Dah - Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans
1963 - Today I Met the Boy I'm gonna Marry, A Fine, Fine Boy, Wait til' my Bobby Gets Home (stereo version), and Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) - Darlene Love
1963 - Why Do Lovers Break Each Other's Hearts? and Not Too Young to Get Married - Bob. B. Sox and The Blue Jeans
1963 - I'm In Love - The Blossoms
1964 - Stumble and Fall (WARNING: LOUD) - Darlene Love
1965 - That's When The Tears Start - The Blossoms
1966 - Lover Boy and Let Your Love Shine On Me - The Blossoms
1966 - Too Late To Say You're Sorry - Darlene Love
1967 - The Stony End - The Blossoms
1969 - You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin' (live, left-channel audio only) - The Blossoms
1970 - I Ain't Got To Love Nobody Else (possibly NSFW still image) and One Step Away - The Blossoms
1972 - Grandma's Hands - Blossoms
1975 - Lord, if You're a Woman - Darlene Love
1977 - There's No Greater Love - The Blossoms
1992 - All Alone on Christmas - Darlene Love (on the Home Alone 2 soundtrack; related music video version)
2008 - Christmastime for the Jews (quiet; also on Hulu) - Darlene Love clay-animated on SNL
posted by filthy light thief (22 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)

posted by Horace Rumpole at 2:25 PM on February 18, 2011 [3 favorites]

Damn, filthy light thief. Much respect to you for your encyclopedic post.
posted by blucevalo at 2:27 PM on February 18, 2011

"A Fine, Fine Boy" is both awesome and really oddly funny. "Maaaaaaah boy!"
posted by Linda_Holmes at 2:28 PM on February 18, 2011

1961 - Son-In-Law - The Blossoms

Finally, an answer to that smug Ernie K-Doe
posted by 2bucksplus at 2:29 PM on February 18, 2011

Fantastic post, but oddly incomplete without Then He Kissed Me (1963), memorably featured in the scene with my single favorite camera shot of all time, from Goodfellas.

You might also recognize it from Adventures in Babysitting.
posted by norm at 2:37 PM on February 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

blucevalo: Much respect to you for your encyclopedic post.

Aw, shucks - now I feel like a jerk for rushing this and not digging up proper links to their back-up work to such songs as Sam Cook's "Everybody Love's to Cha-Cha-Cha" and Duane Eddy's "(Dance With The) Guitar Man" -- in the latter, The Blossoms are the vocalists on the track, as Duane Eddy was a guitar man.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:38 PM on February 18, 2011

I might not be able to find it in my heart to love Mike Love, but I've always had it in me to love Darlene Love.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:38 PM on February 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

Thanks, normb - the current wiki page on The Crystals has a section called The "Replacement" Crystals, with more info on The Blossoms tracks that were released under the name of the other group.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:41 PM on February 18, 2011

Aw hell, this is a lot better: the Goodfellas steadicam shot.
posted by norm at 2:42 PM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

There's just about nothing to dislike from the Phil Spector era of music, except maybe for Phil Spector himself.

Amazing post.
posted by erstwhile at 2:49 PM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

And just to really muddy the water, my knee jerk association of Love with "Then He Kissed Me" may well not be correct. Wikipedia has it as being Lala Brooks with the lead vocal, but some other sites think it's Love. But I guess that's at least part of the point here, right? Spector's mad scientist messing with these groups made proper crediting difficult. That guy was just NUTS.
posted by norm at 2:50 PM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

For more on the madness of Spector, you can read through parts of Tearing down the wall of sound: the rise and fall of Phil Spector on Google Books, including some interesting history with Darlene Wright/Love.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:53 PM on February 18, 2011

Wow, great post.

That's When the Tears Start is one of my favorite songs ever.

Strange Love is pretty fantastic as well.
posted by Dismantled King at 2:55 PM on February 18, 2011

Wow. Can't wait to listen to all this
There was a doo-wop program on my local oldies station. I loved it
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 3:02 PM on February 18, 2011

The fact that Darlene Love played Trish Murtaugh is just so weird I can't believe I didn't know it already. Thank you!
posted by dirtdirt at 3:03 PM on February 18, 2011

I will go to bat for "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" as one of the greatest records of the twentieth century.
posted by Iridic at 3:04 PM on February 18, 2011 [5 favorites]

I associate Darlene Love with Letterman now. I love her, and I love him for inviting her on every year. She still blows the roof off.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 4:40 PM on February 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

Wonderful post!

There are two songs that I have to listen to every year to make it really feel like Christmas for me: Bruce Springsteen's live version of Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town and Darlene Love's Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).

During Darlene's annual appearance on Letterman, she does indeed "blow the roof off the dump" and something in my grinchy little heart says "Yay! Christmas is officially here!"
posted by amyms at 7:01 PM on February 18, 2011

As I understand, during the time that the Crystals were recording, there was a bit of an arms race to record and get radio play for songs that were sure to be chart toppers. You had to be the first on the air. Phil had just moved to the West Coast, leaving his budding girl group, the Crystals, behind, when he laid his hands on "He's a Rebel." So, instead of losing valuable time in flying back East and setting up a studio session with his group, he merely found another in California and marketed it under a familiar name. There were several groups at the time who had fluctuating membership, more like a chorus mentality I guess, and recorded songs with various leads, so, I guess it wasn't all that odd. It's great to see this singer getting her due. She kicks ass.
posted by Foam Pants at 7:36 PM on February 18, 2011

Fantastic post! But it's missing mention of Darlene Love's Broadway career. She played the gym teacher in the infamous flop "Carrie: The Musical" (discussed on MeFi previously and previouslyer) and was a later replacement for the role of Motormouth Maybelle in "Hairpsray". YouTube has footage of both roles.
posted by Asparagirl at 10:01 PM on February 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

Neil Diamond is not rock.
posted by Eideteker at 10:49 PM on February 18, 2011

Neil Diamond is not rock.

He was, at least before a couple billion years under high pressure.
posted by Spatch at 4:01 AM on February 19, 2011 [9 favorites]

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