Hers is one of the most powerful voices in popular music: so warming in its deep register and so head-spinningly euphoric in its higher notes. At the age of 81, Darlene Love is still socking it to audiences – and she joins us this week to answer your questions.
Grounded first in gospel choirs then doo-wop groups, her group the Blossoms caught the ear of producer Phil Spector in the early 1960s. He drafted Love in to sing the lead on the infectiously strutting He’s a Rebel, which was credited to another group, the Crystals, on its release. Love perfectly evoked the infatuation and insubordination in this tale of loving a no-good guy, and took it to the top of the US charts.
She became one of the great – and poorly treated – muses of Spector, recording further US hits such as He’s the Boy I Love, also credited to the Crystals, and a version of Disney song Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah with the trio Bob B Soxx & the Blue Jeans, before eventually being allowed by Spector to record under her own name. In 1963 she had her best-known and most enduring hit: Christmas (Baby Please Come Home), a maximalist blast of twinkling delight, which, for many, is the defining song of the season.
She carried on working with the Blossoms, too, and while their own singles struggled, as backing singers they came into the orbit of the biggest stars of the era: Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Tom Jones, Cher, the Beach Boys, Sam Cooke, Dionne Warwick and many more. That’s Love singing on That’s Life by Frank Sinatra, the Ronettes’ Be My Baby, and even doing those chatty interjections on Monster Mash. Her skill as a backing singer was eventually chronicled in the 2013 Oscar-winning documentary 20 Feet from Stardom.
Her career dwindled in the 70s, and by the 80s she was working as a hotel maid, but she returned to continue singing and started an acting career, appearing as herself in Broadway musical Leader of the Pack, and then the four Lethal Weapon movies, playing Trish, the wife of Danny Glover’s Roger Murtaugh. Later Broadway appearances came in productions of Grease, Hairspray and a musical version of Stephen King’s Carrie produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company, and further accolades included being added to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and being named one of the 100 greatest singers by Rolling Stone magazine.
It’s an astonishing creative life, woven through the very best of 20th-century pop culture, and as she releases a new live album, Live 1982 – including a killer version of Bruce Springsteen’s Hungry Heart – Darlene Love will answer your questions about it all. Post them in the comments below before 4pm UK time on Thursday 30 March; her answers will be published on Friday 7 March in our Film & Music section, and online.