A Little Love for Valentine’s Day
For decades, Darlene Love was known as one of the best backup singers in the music industry. She recorded songs with artists like Elvis Presley, Marvin Gaye, Dionne Warwick, Tom Jones and The Ronettes — often supporting some of the biggest songs in the 1960s. Her own voice took center stage on the #1 hit “He’s A Rebel,” and popular songs like “The Boy I’m Gonna Marry,” and “He’s Sure the Boy I Love.” But, above all, she was best known for her work behind the scenes. Love would go on to star on Broadway—in hits like “Hairspray,” “Grease” and “Leader of the Pack—have a recurring character in the “Lethal Weapon” films, and sing the holiday classic “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” on the “David Letterman Show” for nearly 30 years.
In the past decade, Love’s career has finally received some long overdue recognition. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011 and took home the Oscar for Best Documentary with “20 Feet from Stardom” a few years later. In doing so, she became known to a whole new generation of fans.
The iconic singer comes to the Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC) in Englewood on Saturday, February 13, where you can see her perform her classic hits as well as songs from her recent album, “Introducing Darlene Love” — a record produced by New Jersey’s own Steven Van Zandt. Jersey Arts spoke with her about the upcoming show and her new album.
Jersey Arts: Your feelings about Christmas are well known, how do you feel about Valentine’s Day?
Darlene Love: Believe it or not, it’s only been the last couple of years that they’ve started hiring me for Valentine’s Day. I always thought that would be a no-brainer!
JA: Are you planning anything special? Maybe a Valentine’s Day twist?
DL: I do a little Valentine’s Day twist, but it’s a surprise.
JA: Do you perform any songs from your new album?
DL: We do a few. We don’t do all of them, but we do enough that they can get the feel of the new album. It’s amazing, because of the way we put the show together, and Steven Van Zandt was actually responsible for that. He recorded a lot of songs for me that he said when you hear them they sound familiar to you. So, we do a few of the new ones and, of course, we do the classics. They’d kick me off the stage if I didn’t do them!
JA: Which of the new songs has received the best response live?
DL: Actually, the single that they picked – it’s the one that Elvis Costello wrote — “Forbidden Nights” — that one gets a lot, and so does the one that Stevie (Van Zandt) wrote, “Among the Believers.” It’s kind of the theme of the album. It’s about faith and believing. It all comes together during the whole show and that’s what I’m all about with my audience — trying to get them to believe in yourself. If you do that, you’ve got half the battle won.
JA: You’ve had such a wonderful career and now you have a whole new generation of fans because of the film (“20Feet from Stardom”).
DL: Exactly! That’s amazing. I kept getting new fans because of the David Letterman show that ran for 29 years and then the film came along. By us winning the Oscar for Best Documentary, people who hadn’t seen it went out to see it. There’s still people today who tell me they went out to see it and they loved it. More people probably see it on television now than they did in the movies.
JA: Is that what led to the album title? Sort of introducing yourself as a lead singer instead of a backup singer?
DL: Well, that was Stevie’s idea. He said there’s a whole couple of new generations who have never seen me before. They may have heard about me from their parents or wherever, but they still didn’t know who I was. That movie opened up a lot of doors.
JA: This is your first record of original music in nearly 30 years. Was it worth the wait for you?
DL: It really was, because I had no idea. I knew it was going to be great, but I didn’t know how great it was going to be. All of my expectations were answered when we went into the studio and this album came out. Stevie gave it his all. He went in and he did it. And in between his movie and working with Bruce Springsteen and him in Switzerland, we got it done.
One night I was at B.B. King’s in New York and he said, “What are you guys doing tomorrow?” I said, “Well, we’re off tomorrow” and he said, “No, you’re not. We’re going into the studio because if we never go in and start, we’re never going to get this done.” And that was so true because once we started it, time became available.
JA: During your Christmas shows, you run through songs from throughout your career and tell stories. Is that what people can expect at bergenPAC?
DL: Oh yeah, definitely. That’s how I get very intimate with my audience. They love to hear those stories. They get better and better every year!
JA: And when someone leaves your show, they leave knowing much more about you. After all of your struggles and the Phil Spector stuff, when you look back on your career did the induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame make up for some of what you had to go through?
DL: It made up for a lot; it really did. I didn’t think I would ever get known as well as I am today with the help of the “David Letterman Show,” Broadway, the movies I did and all the background sessions that I did for over 15 years. It all came to a head when I was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which said to me, “Girl, you’ve been doing it!”
Don't miss Darlene Love on February 13 at the Bergen Performing Arts Center, located at 30 North Van Brunt Street in Englewood, NJ.