Darlene Love

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Darlene Love
Darlene Love 2013.jpg
Background information
Birth name Darlene Wright
Born (1941-07-26) July 26, 1941 (age 73)
Origin Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Genres Jazz, pop, rock
Occupation(s) Singer, actress
Years active 1959–present
Labels Challenge, OKeh, Reprise, Ode, MGM, Bell, Lion
Associated acts Tom Jones, The Ronettes, The Beach Boys, Elvis Presley, Johnny Rivers, Sonny and Cher

Darlene Love (née Wright; born July 26, 1941) is an American popular music singer and actress. She gained prominence in the 1960s for the song "He's a Rebel," a No. 1 American single in 1962, and was one of the Phil Spector artists who produced a celebrated Christmas album in 1963.

Darlene Love grew up in a community that was almost numb to the racial divide, at least in her family. Her father always told her to shoot for the stars and have your voice be as loud as possible. Darlene reflects on her childhood: "we didn't know we were poor"; she adds, "if we didn't know we were poor, we didn't ‘know' we were black either."

As a minister's daughter, she grew up listening to gospel music and was a dedicated member of her church in San Antonio, Texas. She began singing in her church choir at age ten. During choir practice she caught the attention of choir director Cora Martin. After singing for Martin she was asked to go to the Music Mart where she sang and did some broadcasts; Love's career began there.[1] As it was her first musical experience, it was also the main influence for her to pursue a music career. Those who knew her described her vocals as "a voice of a nightingale." She claimed, "(Singing in the choir) was a big influence on my life. I call it my learning ground. Singing in the choir, I learned harmony."[2]

She appears in the documentary film 20 Feet from Stardom (2013), which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and went on to win the Academy Award for best documentary. As an actress, she is perhaps best remembered for playing officer Roger Murtaugh's (Danny Glover) wife in the Lethal Weapon film series.


Early career[edit]

She was born on July 26, 1941 in Los Angeles, California as Darlene Wright to Ellen Maddox and Reverend Joe Wright.[3][4]

She began singing with her local church choir in Hawthorne, California. While still in high school (1957) she was invited to join a little-known girl group called The Blossoms,[5] who in 1962 began working with producer Phil Spector. With her powerful voice she was soon a highly sought-after vocalist, and managed to work with many of the legends of 1950s and 1960s rock and soul, including Sam Cooke, Dionne Warwick, The Beach Boys, Elvis Presley, Tom Jones and Sonny and Cher; Darlene and the Blossoms sang back-up for Sharon Marie (Esparza) (a Brian Wilson act), as well as John Phillips' solo album John, Wolfking of L.A., recorded in 1969. They also appeared on Johnny Rivers' hits, including "Poor Side of Town" and Motown covers "Baby I Need Your Loving" and "The Tracks of My Tears". (The Blossoms recorded singles, usually with little success, on Capitol 1957-58 [pre-Darlene Love], Challenge 1961-62, OKeh 1963, Reprise 1966-67, Ode 1967, MGM 1968, Bell 1969-70, and Lion 1972.)

The single "He's a Rebel" was hurriedly released by Spector in November 1962 by having The Blossoms record the track in order to get his version of the Gene Pitney song onto the market before that of Vikki Carr. The single "He's a Rebel" actually featured Love singing lead for the first time on a Spector recording, although the track was credited to The Crystals.[6] The ghost release of this single came as a total surprise to The Crystals who were an experienced and much traveled girl harmony group in their own right, but they were nevertheless required to perform and promote the new single on television and on tour as if it were their own.

With The Blossoms, Love contributed backing vocals behind many of the biggest hits of the 1960s including The Ronettes' "Be My Baby", Shelley Fabares' "Johnny Angel", Bobby "Boris" Pickett's "Monster Mash", Frank Sinatra's version of "That's Life", and the Crystals' "Da Doo Ron Ron". As a solo artist, Love also contributed backing vocals to The Ronettes' "Baby, I Love You".

In the 2013 Oscar-winning documentary 20 Feet from Stardom, Love revealed that she had signed with Spector as a solo artist after the success of "He's a Rebel", and had recorded "He's Sure The Boy I Love" with the impression it would be released as her first single as a solo artist. However, Spector instead used Love's recording and released it as the newest single for The Crystals without informing Love. She only learned of the switch when she heard a DJ on the radio announce that the single was "the newest Crystals record".

Subsequently, Love recorded "Today I Met The Boy I'm Gonna Marry" which was released as a single by Spector, and now featured Love's name as the artist. She says that Spector offered $3,000 for her rights to the song. And though he said it was going to be a hit, she took the money. But, in spite of that decision, she said that she has continued to have a career because people have loved hearing her sing her songs.

She was also part of a trio called Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans, who recorded a cover version of "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah", an Oscar-winning song from the 1946 Walt Disney film Song of the South, which got into the Top 10 in 1963. The Blossoms landed a weekly part on Shindig!, one of the top music shows of the era. They were part of the highly acclaimed Elvis Presley's '68 Comeback Special, which aired on NBC.

"Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" is a song by Darlene Love from the 1963 holiday compilation album, A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector. The song was written by Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, along with Phil Spector, with the intention of being sung by Ronnie Spector of The Ronettes. According to Love, Ronnie Spector was not able to put as much emotion into the song as needed. Instead, Love was brought into the studio to record the song, which became a big success over time and one of Love's signature tunes.

Career break[edit]

Darlene Love engaging audience at Barnes & Noble Tribeca, June 17, 2013.

Into the 1970s Love continued to work as a back-up singer, before taking a break in order to raise a family. In 1973, she recorded vocals as a cheerleader along with Michelle Phillips, for the Cheech & Chong single "Basketball Jones", which peaked at No. 15 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.[citation needed]

1980s return[edit]

Love returned to music in the early 1980s and to an appreciative audience she thought might have long since forgotten her. She had been performing at venues like the Roxy in L.A., and it was a conversation with Steven Van Zandt that greased the wheels for her to come to New York and begin performing there in 1982, at places like The Bottom Line. In addition to singing the songs that made her famous, she has re-explored her gospel roots on several recordings.[citation needed] She also sang "OOO Wee Baby" in the 1980 movie The Idolmaker.

In the mid-1980s she portrayed herself in the Tony Award-nominated jukebox musical Leader of the Pack, which featured the iconic rock and roll songs written by Ellie Greenwich, many of them for the young Love. The showstopping number of that show, "River Deep - Mountain High", had been recorded by Phil Spector with Ike & Tina Turner and had been less than the success they had expected. Leader of the Pack commenced as a revue at the Greenwich Village nightclub the Bottom Line, as did the later show about Love's life, Portrait of a Singer, which never made the move uptown. Portrait included covers of "A Change Is Gonna Come" and "Don't Make Me Over", as well as "River Deep, Mountain High" and original music from some of the instrumental writers of early rock and roll, including Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. Love contributed a cover of The Hollywood Argyles song "Alley Oop" to the soundtrack of the 1984 film Bachelor Party.

In 1987, Love sang back-up for U2's cover of "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)". In 1990, Love released the album, Paint Another Picture, which included an update of her old hit, "He's Sure The Man I Love," by Mann and Weill, as well as a ballad written especially for her, "I've Never Been The Same," by Judy Wieder. The album did not make the US charts. In 1990, Cher invited Love and her sister Edna Wright as her background vocalists for the Heart of Stone tour. Love released a minor single in 1992 with "All Alone on Christmas", written and composed by Steven Van Zandt, which can be found on the Home Alone 2: Lost in New York soundtrack. Love also contributed vocals to the soundtrack of the film Jingle All the Way. In October 2007, Love released the holiday collection It's Christmas, Of Course, featuring her versions of classic yuletide tunes from the 1970s and 1980s.[citation needed]

She continues to do a Christmas show every year in New York City, which is always capped by "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)".

Love recorded a duet with Bette Midler on the latter's 2014 studio release album, "It's the Girls!", an album of songs paying tribute to girl groups. The two singers performed, "He's Sure the Boy I Love", a track originally made famous by The Crystals.

Acting roles[edit]

In the late 1980s and 1990s, Love also began an acting career, playing Danny Glover's wife Trish Murtaugh in the four Lethal Weapon movies.[5] Love has performed in a number of Broadway productions. She acted and sang in Grease, in the short-lived musical adaptation of Stephen King's Carrie, and starred as Motormouth Maybelle in Broadway's Hairspray from August 2005 till April 2008.[7] She later reprised the role in The Hollywood Bowl production of the show in 2011.

Television appearances[edit]

Love has performed the song "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" every year since 1986 on the last episode before Christmas of Late Night with David Letterman (NBC 1986 - 1992) and the Late Show with David Letterman (CBS 1993 to present). The song is always performed with Paul Shaffer and the show's house band (The World's Most Dangerous Band at NBC, now the CBS Orchestra), with the band being augmented over the years by additional strings and other instruments, as well as a choir.[citation needed] Her final Christmas appearance was on December 19, 2014, nine days after the official announcement of the show's finale in May 2015.[8] Letterman has stated that the annual performance is his favorite part of Christmas. Due to the 2007 Writers Guild of America strike, Love was unable to perform on the Letterman show in 2007;[9] a repeat of her 2006 performance was shown instead.

She was a special guest on the December 17, 2005, broadcast of Saturday Night Live, singing "White Christmas" with the SNL band and providing the vocals for a Robert Smigel cartoon, "Christmastime for the Jews". Love was the musical guest on Late Show with David Letterman on May 7, 2007, performing "River Deep-Mountain High". Love performed with Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band in November 2009 at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 25th Anniversary Concert at Madison Square Garden.

Awards and accomplishments[edit]

Love responding to questions before New York audience.

In 1995 Love won the Rhythm and Blues Foundation's Pioneer Award.[1]

On December 15, 2010, it was announced that Love had been chosen for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.[10] On March 14, 2011, Love was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,[11] with a speech by Bette Midler.[12][13]

Bette Midler said "she changed my view of the world, listening to those songs, you had to dance, you had to move, you had to keep looking for the rebel boy." Near tears, Love noted that she will turn 70 later this year, and thanked Spector "for recognizing my talent and making me the main voice in his Wall of Sound." Her speech elicited a standing ovation. Later, she sang "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" with Springsteen playing a lowdown solo on a Telecaster.[14]

Her most recent performance was on August 10, 2014 at Stern Grove in San Francisco, CA. Through an incredible journey, she shares with the world, "what people have to understand is that if you're getting more good than bad out of something, it's always worth it. But you have to keep on, you have to see to your goals and your dreams, and keep moving forward. We all have bumps in the road. We have barricades. But my whole thing about that is this: A barricade is nothing but something you have to get over. That's what I've done most of my life. Once you get over it, the joy on the other side is very fulfilling. So you just have to keep pressing on."[15]

Darlene Love alongside Rob Haerburger, editor and writer for the New York Times wrote her autobiography "My Name Is Love". In her memoir, Love tells all about her life in the music industry, her years of struggle, and her present projects. "The only rule was that I wanted to be completely honest," says Love. "I've been around a long time, so I have a lot of anecdotes and stories, and the publisher liked that. But I wanted it to be funny, too – even some things that weren't funny at the time."[16]

In August, 2014, The Oprah Winfrey Network(OWN) announced that it is producing a biopic for the big screen based on Love's life, starring singing icon Toni Braxton.


U.S. albums[edit]

  • 1963 - Various Artists Today's Hits (Philles Records #4004)
  • 1963 - Various Artists A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector (Philles Records #4005)
  • 1977 - Various Artists Phil Spector's Greatest Hits (Warner/Spector Records #9104)
  • 1978 - Various Artists Lakeshore Music presents Rock and Roll Forever (Warner Special Products #2508) (same as above release)
  • 1985 - Leader of the Pack Original Broadway Cast (Elektra Records #60420)
  • 1985 - Darlene Love Live! (Rhino Records RNLP #855)
  • 1988 - Paint Another Picture (Columbia Records #40605)
  • 1990 - Various Artists Dick Tracy: Music from and inspired by the film (Sire/Reprise Records #26236)
  • 1991 - Various Artists Back to Mono (1958–1969) (ABKCO Records #7118) (box set)
  • 1992 - Various Artists A Very Special Christmas 2 (A&M Records #450003)
  • 1992 - The Best of Darlene Love (The Philles Recordings) (ABKCO Records #7213)
  • 1992 - Bringing It Home (with Lani Groves) (Shanachie Records #9003)
  • 1998 - Various Artists Grease Is the Word (Rhino Records)
  • 1998 - Unconditional Love (Harmony Records)
  • 2007 - It's Christmas of Course (Shout! Factory Records #10569)
  • 2008 - So Much Love: A Darlene Love Anthology 1958-1998 (Ace CDCHD 1169)
  • 2011 - The Sound Of Love: The Very Best Of Darlene Love Audio CD
  • 2011 - The Sound Of Love: The Very Best Of Darlene Love Blu-spec CD (Released in November 2, 2011)

U.S. singles[edit]

Incomplete list of recordings.

Year Title Chart Positions
U.S. Hot 100
1961 "Son-In-Law" (The Blossoms) Challenge 9109 79
1961 "Hard to Get" (The Blossoms) Challenge 9122 -
1962 "The Search Is Over" (The Blossoms) Challenge 9138 -
1962 "He's a Rebel" (released as The Crystals) Philles 106 1
1962 "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" (released as Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans) Philles 107 8
1962 "He's Sure the Boy I Love" (released as The Crystals) Philles 109 11
1963 "Why Do Lovers Break Each Others Heart?" (released as Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans) Philles 110 38
1963 "Today I Met The Boy I'm Gonna Marry" / "My Heart Beat a Little Bit Faster" Philles 111 39
1963 "Not Too Young to Get Married" (released as Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans) Philles 113 63
1963 "Wait 'Til My Bobby Gets Home" / "Take It From Me" Philles 114 26
1963 "What Makes Love" (The Blossoms) Okeh 7162 (Fanita James on lead) -
1963 "A Fine, Fine Boy" Philles 117 53
1963 "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" Philles 119 -
1964 "Stumble and Fall" / "He's A Quiet Guy" Philles 123 -
1964 "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" Philles 125 -
1964 "3625 Groovy Street" / "What Are We Gonna Do In '64" (The Wildcats) Reprise 0253 -
1965 "Good Good Lovin'" / "That's When the Tears Start" (The Blossoms) Reprise 0436 -
1966 "Lover Boy" / "My Love Come Home" (The Blossoms) Reprise 0475 -
1966 "Let Your Love Shine On Me / Deep Into My Heart" (The Blossoms) Reprise 0522 -
1966 "Too Late To Say You're Sorry / If" Reprise 0534 -
1967 "Deep Into My Heart / Good Good Lovin'" (The Blossoms) Reprise 0639 -
1967 "Wonderful" b/w "Stoney End" (The Blossoms) Ode 101 -
1968 "Tweedlee Dee" (The Blossoms) MGM 13964 -
1968 "Cry Like A Baby" (The Blossoms) Ode 106 -
1969 "A Stoney End" b/w "Wonderful" - reissued (The Blossoms) Ode 125 -
1969 "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin' / Something So Wrong" (The Blossoms) Bell 780 -
1969 "(You're My) Soul And Inspiration / Stand By" (The Blossoms) Bell 797 -
1970 "I Ain't Got To Love Nobody Else / Don't Take Your Love" (The Blossoms) Bell 857 -
1970 "One Step Away / Break Your Promise" (The Blossoms) Bell 937 -
1972 "Touchdown" (The Blossoms) Lion 108 -
1972 "Grandma's Hands" (The Blossoms) Lion 125 -
1974 "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" / "Winter Wonderland" Warner/Spector 0401 -
1975 "Lord, If You're A Woman / Stumble And Fall" Warner/Spector 0410 -
1977 "There's No Greater Love" (The Blossoms) Epic 50435 -
1988 "He's Sure The Man I Love / I've Never Been The Same/ Everybody Needs" Columbia 07984 -
1992 "All Alone on Christmas" (used in the film Home Alone 2: Lost in New York) Fox 10003 83
2008 "Christmastime for the Jews" (from Saturday Night Live)


Year Film Role
1969 Change of Habit Backup Singer (uncredited)
1969 The Love God? Singer with The Blossoms (uncredited)
1987 Lethal Weapon Trish Murtaugh
1989 Lethal Weapon 2 Trish Murtaugh
1992 Lethal Weapon 3 Trish Murtaugh
1998 Lethal Weapon 4 Trish Murtaugh
2013 20 Feet from Stardom Herself


  1. ^ a b "Darlene Love". History-of-rock.com. 1941-07-26. Retrieved 2014-08-11. 
  2. ^ Carroll, Jim. "The Love of Music". Grand Theatre. Retrieved 5 June 2014. 
  3. ^ "Darlene Wright in the California birth index". Darlene Wright, 26 July 1941, Mother's Maiden Name: Maddox 
  4. ^ Darlene Love; Rob Hoerburger (2013). My Name is Love: The Darlene Love Story. HarperCollins. ISBN 0062305514. Darlene Love was born to Ellen and Joe Wright in East Los Angeles on July 26, 1941. One of five children and the daughter of a minister, the family of seven settled into the three and a half room bungalow at 887½ 42nd Street. 
  5. ^ a b "Darlene Love spreads Christmas cheer". CBS News. December 25, 2011. Retrieved March 24, 2012. 
  6. ^ "Darlene Love: A Prominent Star, Born In The Background". NPR. 2011-02-16. Retrieved 2014-08-11. 
  7. ^ "Darlene Love | Broadway Buzz". Broadway.com. 2005-08-22. Retrieved 2014-08-11. 
  8. ^ Itzkoff, Dave. "Darlene Love's Last 'Letterman' Christmas," The New York Times, Saturday, December 20, 2014.
  9. ^ Contra Costa Times report on Darlene Love at the Wayback Machine (archived December 28, 2007)
  10. ^ "Darlene Love Biography | The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum". Rockhall.com. July 26, 1938. Retrieved April 14, 2012. 
  11. ^ "Darlene Love: A Prominent Star, Born In The Background". NPR. February 16, 2011. Retrieved April 14, 2012. 
  12. ^ "Darlene Love: inducted in 2011 | The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum". Rockhall.com. Retrieved 2014-08-11. 
  13. ^ "Alice Cooper, Darlene Love, Neil Diamond Make for Unforgettable Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Ceremony". Retrieved March 15, 2011. 
  14. ^ The LA Times Blog (March 14, 2014). "Live from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony: Tom Waits, Dr. John, Darlene Love, Alice Cooper and Neil Diamond celebrate in New York". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 5 June 2014. 
  15. ^ Tunis, Walter (May 17, 2014). "With Darlene Love, There's Always Laughter". 
  16. ^ "Press – Welcome to Darlene Love - The official website of Darlene Love". Darleneloveworld.com. Retrieved 2014-08-11. 

External links[edit]