Darlene Love: A Background Singer Takes The Spotlight Love sang background vocals on some of the biggest hits of the 1960s, including "Da Doo Ron Ron" and "Johnny Angel." On March 14, Love will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame. Fresh Air honors the vocalist with excerpts from a 1988 interview.

Darlene Love: A Background Singer Takes The Spotlight

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This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli in for Terry Gross.

We're continuing our salute to some of the artists scheduled to be inducted Monday into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Next is Darlene Love, one of the singers around whom producer Phil Spector built his popular girl group sound. She sang lead on such songs as "He's A Rebel," "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah," and "Today I Met The Boy I'm Gonna Marry," and backup on "Johnny Angel."

She was a singer with a backup group called The Blossoms when she met Phil Spector, but he recorded them under several names, including The Crystals. For years after leaving Spector, Love worked as a backup singer, then moved on to a solo career. Each holiday season you can see and hear her on David Letterman's CBS show singing one of her signature songs, "Christmas, Baby Please Come Home."

Terry Spoke with Darlene Love in 1988. Let's begin with one of Darlene Love's biggest hits, "He's A Rebel."

(Soundbite of song, "He's A Rebel")

THE CRYSTALS (Music Group): (Singing): See the way he walks down the street. Watch the way he shuffles his feet. My, he holds his head up high when he goes walking by. He's my guy.

When he holds my hand, I'm so proud, 'cause he's not just one of the crowd. Why is he always the one to try the things they've never done? And just because of that, they say...

He's a rebel and he'll never ever be any good. He's a rebel 'cause he never...

TERRY GROSS: I know the first song that you recorded for Spector was "He's A Rebel."

Ms. LOVE: Right.

GROSS: You sang lead on it.

Ms. LOVE: Yes.

GROSS: But although you sang lead and The Blossoms backed you up, the song was recorded under the name of The Crystals...

Ms. LOVE: Right.

GROSS: ...which had already had a few hits - one of the girl groups who had already had a few hits. Why did he record you under the name of The Crystals?

Ms. LOVE: Well, he - him and The Crystals I think had fallen out at that time. They didn't want to fly to California for whatever reasons. Well, he just told them, okay, and he just left them in New York and came out to the coast and decided to record this song because he was so - had had, he had in him that this song was going to be such a monstrous hit; he didn't want to sit on it, so he just found the best person he thought he could to do the lead and do the backup and to put the record out, because the Vikki Carr had a song, "He's A Rebel," out also and he was trying to beat her record out.

GROSS: Well, why couldn't he call you Darlene Love and The Blossoms? Why did he call you The Crystals?

Ms. LOVE: Well, at that time he had the name The Crystals and he had already had a little success with the name The Crystals already. They already had, I think, like top 10 or top 20 records, so I guess he figured it would have been easier to break them with another record rather than starting out fresh with a new sound, new voice.

GROSS: Your recording of "He's A Rebel" under the name of The Crystals rose to number one on the charts. How did you feel about it? Here it was your voice without any credit to you?

Ms. LOVE: I didn't really feel one way about it or the other because I went in to do it as a recording session, you know, like many of the other things that I did that just weren't hits, because I did a lot of other things like that, like "He's A Rebel." It's just that those things that I did under other names were not hits.

GROSS: Now, you also recorded "He's Sure The Boy I Love" under the name of The Crystals.

Ms. LOVE: Right.

GROSS: Then Phil Spector changed your name to the Bobby Sox and Blue Jeans.

Ms. LOVE: Right.

GROSS: And under that name you recorded "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" and "Not Too Young to Get Married." When Phil Spector asked you to record "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah," did you think it was a very good idea?

Ms. LOVE: No. I couldn't imagine what we were going to do with "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah." As a matter of fact, I asked Phil, I said, you mean that song about the "Song of the South" with Uncle Remus?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. LOVE: And he said yes, that song. I went, hmm, well, okay. You have to realize that we were very professional singers at that time at doing background. So when it came time to sing the song "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah," we knew the song and we just kind of fell into the rhythm of the song with the track.

(Soundbite of song, "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah")

BOBBY SOX AND THE BLUE JEANS: (Singing) Zip a dee doo-dah, zip a dee-ay. Well, Mr. Bluebird on my shoulder. And it's the truth, it's actual. Everything is going to be satisfactual. Zip a dee doo-dah...

GROSS: Under the name of Darlene Love, you recorded "Today I Met The Boy I'm Going to Marry" and "Wait Till My Bobby Gets Home." Did you sing any differently knowing that it was going to be under your name? Did you know it was going to be under your name?

Ms. LOVE: Well, "He's Sure The Boy I Love" was supposed to be a Darlene Love record, because before we did "He's Sure The Boy I Love," we had already became Bobby Sox and the Blue Jeans. We had "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" out before "He's Sure The Boy I Love" and he had signed Darlene Love. He had changed my name already and he told me that that was going to be my next release. And I didn't know it wasn't my next release until we were in the car and I heard it on the radio and the disc jockey said this is The Crystals' latest record and they played "He's Sure The Boy I Love." That's when I found out it wasn't a Darlene Love record.

GROSS: Wow. You must've been pretty angry hearing that, huh?

Ms. LOVE: I was a little upset about that one.

(Soundbite of song, "He's Sure The Boy I Love")

THE CRYSTALS: (Spoken) Always dreamed the boy I loved would come along. And he'd be tall and handsome, rich and strong. Now that boy I love has come to me. But he sure ain't the way I thought he'd be.

(Singing) Sha la la, la la, yeah, yeah, yeah. Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh. Sha la la, la la, yeah, yeah yeah. Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh. Sha la la, la la, yeah, yeah yeah. Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh. He's sure the boy I love.

He doesn't look like a movie star. He doesn't drive a Cadillac car. He sure ain't the boy I've been dreaming of, but he's sure the boy I love. Let me tell you now.

He never be a big business man. He always...

GROSS: You've said before that you felt that Spector had you hold back when you were singing.

Ms. LOVE: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: What did you mean?

Ms. LOVE: I have a very powerful voice. As a matter of fact, it was funny. Sometimes when I had to do ad libs, I would have to stand like, you know, 10 feet away from the mic to do the kind of singing that I did. Or if I would over-sing too much Phil would take a earlier tape that I a take that I had recorded and use that one rather than the more powerful voice that I was using.

GROSS: You were known as the best singer in the girl groups. Did you think of yourself that way?

Ms. LOVE: No. I never did. Because during that time, everybody to me was almost like sounding alike. My voice stood out in Phil Spector's ears, I think, because I had the more mature voice than - and I think that came from the Gospel singing, where the other people had not had any kind of professional training or sung in public, where I had been doing that in church and also in school.

GROSS: Your voice, I think, was not only more mature, it was also more controlled.

Ms. LOVE: Right. Exactly. I would agree with that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BIANCULLI: Darlene Love, another upcoming inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, speaking to Terry Gross in 1988.

Coming up, yet another artist to be inducted Monday, Neil Diamond.

This is FRESH AIR.

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