The great Darlene Love on Letterman

Posted by John Grooms on Thu, Dec 23, 2010 at 11:30 AM

Today I’m taking off my political hat, putting on my rock history professor hat, and talking about one of the greatest rock singers ever, Darlene Love. Over the years, I’ve probably made too many of my friends, or former students, suffer through excited monologues about Darlene Love. She sang lead, with her deep, piercing, smooth but powerful vocals, on most of the Crystals’ hits — the cream of the girl group era, produced by Phil Spector — in the early '60s. She had hits of her own around that time, and sang for other Spector group concoctions. Afterward, she formed The Blossoms, which became the absolute go-to, back-up singer “girl group,” on recordings and television, through the rest of the '60s and into the '70s. She took time out to raise a family, then started singing and touring again, even starring on Broadway in the '80s in Leader of the Pack, a celebration of girl group rock — which is where I had the thrill of talking to her for a few minutes after a performance.

Anyhow, to get to the point, Darlene Love, at age 68, has finally — finally! — been elected to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. As a big longtime fan, I’m ecstatic and, although this will sound silly, it feels like a dream come true. I’ve been pushing her in classes, articles, conferences, conversations, and so forth for years — always believing that she’s one of the two or three greatest female singers in rock history. It’s a tradition on Late Night With David Letterman for Love to come on the last show before Christmas and sing her 1963 hit, “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” accompanied by a multitude of musicians and back-up singers. Tonight, she’s on Letterman, doing it again, at the end of the show. Here is a great video of Darlene Love singing her signature Christmas song on last year’s show. It’s a great performance; please consider it a cheap, but fulfilling, Christmas gift from one satisfied old rock 'n' roll fan. This is my last blog item of the week, so, long live rock, long live Darlene Love, and Merry Christmas, everybody.

Comments (14)

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She did finally get in? 'Bout time! I couldn't agree more. My wife and I look forward to her performance w/Letterman's band every Christmas and always get goosebumps when she sings. She rules it! Thanks for the posting. Happy Holidays!! Dave

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Posted by Dave Bloodgood on 12/23/2010 at 1:23 PM

Tonight's Letterman show had a cozier set for Darlene and it shed light on the backup singers (some look like regulars, including the musicians too, such as Bette (the other Bette, her pianist, talk about similarities lol) but would anyone know how to find out who is singing backup with her ... they really are a tight outfit. Thanks Darlene and company for such a great re-making of that classic. I have had it on vinyl, cd, and now in mp3 format on my player! Merry Christmas! M

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Posted by Mark on 12/24/2010 at 12:48 AM

Wikipedia says she was born in 1938. That would make her 72 not 68. What a voice for any age. Anthony.

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Posted by Anthony Mullins on 12/24/2010 at 1:03 AM

What kind of sax is the very deep sounding one? Love her performance.

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Posted by Gilla on 12/24/2010 at 4:24 AM

Two different accounts of Darlene Love's birthdate are out there, 1938 and 1942. I picked the latter because it makes more sense, considering that she was definitely in high school in 1959. If she was born in '38, she would have been 21 in high school. Thanks for being vigilant, though, and Merry Christmas again.

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Posted by John Grooms on 12/24/2010 at 10:00 AM

Thanks for posting this classic, perfect performance.

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Posted by LarryKos on 12/24/2010 at 11:42 AM

Her birthdate is 1942 as she was in High School in the 1950's. This woman is fantastic, to sound like that at 68, she has taken care of herself and her voice unlike some others, and can still belt it out. She deserves the induction into the Rock N Roll Hall Of Fame, and if you listen to some of her clips on you tube, her voice seems to have gotten better, what depth and spirituality in her voice. Congrats to this great lady.

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Posted by Michael Miller on 12/24/2010 at 12:12 PM

I saw her last night- What a Treat! What a voice. Every year I sit there with my mouth open at her voice and performance level. I don't even want to sing along because I don't want to miss a note. She really is great. Hard to believe she is 68.

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Posted by oh-mercy on 12/24/2010 at 12:46 PM

Donna Summer was also nominated this year for the Hall of Fame and she should've got Darlene's spot. Donna's a far more capable and powerful singer, and she's sold like 20 times more albums worldwide than Ms. Love. But the retarded prejudice against artists associated with disco continues to this day.

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Posted by JohnnyG on 12/25/2010 at 2:18 AM

I agree that Donna Summers (a fantastic singer) should be in the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame, but dissing Darlene Love because she isn't shows a huge lack of understanding and respect. Darlene isn't as well known as Donna because she was the anonymous lead singer for the Crystals, the Blossoms & for many Bob B. Soxx & the Bluejeans records. All of these groups built their sales records on singles, not albums. Her songs, particularily 'He's A Rebel' & 'Da Do Ron Ron' are argueably more important historically for Rock & Roll than anything Donna has done.

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Posted by Richard A on 12/25/2010 at 2:43 AM

Jeez, what's the point of arguing about Darlene Love vs. Donna Summer? They both deserve to be in the Hall of Fame, and D.S. will probably make it next year. Not that there aren't problems with some of the Hall of Fame's selections and omissions, but why put down a deserving singer in order to push another one? That's not just disrespectful toward a singer, and toward history itself, it's just needlessly cranky and, frankly, kind of nuts. Darlene Love fans had to wait a long time till she made it in; Donna Summer's fans will probably only have to wait another year.

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Posted by John Grooms on 12/27/2010 at 11:27 AM

A few years ago, my dear friend, the late, great Ellie Greenwich sang backup for Darlene's annual rendition of " Christmas Baby Please Come Home". She was not pointed out as being the writer of the song, and I'm certain that she would not have been comfortable if she had been, but she was very excited and happy about being able to do backup. Christmas is a melancholy time for me without my precious friend. RIP Ellie........

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Posted by Celia Partridge on 01/02/2011 at 2:41 AM

Darlene, bring the house down each and every year.... Thanks from the South for your years of soulful entertaining. Finally into R&R Hall of Fame.

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Posted by Peggy Edwards on 01/11/2011 at 11:25 PM

By her own admission on her induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in early 2011, Darlene said she would turn 70 in July. That means she was born in 1941, not 1938 or 1942. Guess she should know. Whatever her age, she has a better voice than many of those half her age! I too only watch Letterman for her performance. And might I add, her version of "River Deep, Mountain High" on the "Leader of the Pack" cast album rivals Tina's. She could have taken that song to the top of the charts!

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Posted by Tom Kay on 12/26/2012 at 1:18 AM
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