Darlene Love: The Greatest Backup Singer Ever
Rolling Stone proclaimed Darlene Love “one of the greatest singers of all time,” while the New York Times declared that her “thunderbolt voice is as embedded in the history of rock and roll as Eric Clapton’s guitar or Bob Dylan’s lyrics.” But if Love’s name doesn’t quite have the familiar ring of Clapton’s and Dylan’s, it’s because she worked for so many years in relative anonymity in the recording studio backing up others—and in the process becoming the most successful unknown singer in rock-and-roll history. Now she’s finally having her moment. Here’s a look back at some milestones.
Phil Spector (1962)
Darlene Love caught the ear of producer Phil Spector and went on to sing backup (and uncredited lead) on the most well-known “girl group” songs to come out of his hit factory.
“Be My Baby," the Ronettes (1963)
Along with Love, Phil Spector invited a pre-famous Cher, Sonny Bono, Bobby Sheen, and Nino Tempo to participate in the backup vocal sessions for the hit “Be My Baby.” It was the first Ronettes song produced by Spector and it exemplifies his “Wall of Sound” production technique, where he layered lots of instruments and used echo effects.
The Blossoms with Marvin Gaye (1964)
With the Blossoms, Love contributed backing vocals behind many of the biggest stars of the 1960s, among them Marvin Gaye. In 2015, she joined an all-star tribute to the singer to promote epilepsy awareness.
“If I Can Dream,” Elvis Presley (1968)
“If I Can Dream” ranks as Love’s all-time favorite Elvis song. She sang backup on his historic NBC special with the Blossoms and remembers, “Whenever we had a break, he would go, ‘Darlene! Do you know this one?’ He’d go get his guitar, and I’d say, ‘Yeah. Come on, let’s sing it,’ and we’d go off in the corner to sing it.”
“Power of Love (Love Power),” Luther Vandross (1991)
Luther Vandross was the last person Love ever sang background for and, according to her, was the only person that was serious about background singers. “Luther was the greatest,” she says, “because he started out in the business as a background singer, so his sessions were always so much fun.”
Twenty Feet from Stardom (2013)
Love’s story as a backup singer was at the center of the Oscar-winning documentary 20 Feet from Stardom. And she stole the show at the 2014 Academy Awards, receiving a standing ovation after showing off her pipes.
Upcoming Event: Feb 9
Bing Concert Hall
Darlene Love with special guest the Stanford Symphony Orchestra