Monday, December 22, 2014

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NY1's Dean Meminger profiles some of soul and R&B's greatest performers as part of his ongoing series.

Soul's Survivors: Darlene Love's Voice Still Powerful At 71

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In his fifth piece celebrating Black Music Month, NY1's Dean Meminger shines the spotlight on legendary back up singer Darlene Love, who, at 71, is rejuvenated and ready to sing many more years.

Still a powerful voice at 71 years young, Darlene Love is rejuvenated and ready to sing many more years. And it doesn't matter if it's a big or small crowd, because she enjoys hitting the stage.

"Well, I was 16 when I started singing rock and roll," Love says. "The girl group that I was working with, they were a little older than I was, and they asked my parents if I could do it. And back in those days it wasn't as raunchy, or, you know, not having any clothes on, as it is today, and it was a cute little movie. Matter of fact, they called it 'bubble gum music.' So my parents didn't mind as long as they knew where I was, if we were being well chaperoned."

Darlene Love may not be a household name, but those in the music industry definitely know her sound. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011.

Considered one of the best back up singers over the last 50 years, she started out singing with girl groups like the Blossoms and Crystals.

Many fans didn't know Love was black. She said music producer Phil Spector would have her sometimes sing a lead but not give her the credit on the record, but other singers, like Marvin Gaye, knew it was her.

Her group worked with many superstars over the years.

"Bobby Darin did an album called 'Salute to Ray Charles,' and we did all the Ray Charles songs," she says. "So I worked with Sam Cooke. I did the 1968 comeback special with Elvis Presley. I was on the road with Tom Jones. Did a lot of background for Dionne Warwick. The Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, these were all in California. Mamas and the Papas. Johnny Rivers. I mean, the list is long, long, long, long."

Love's story, along with those of other backup singers, are told in a movie that's out now, called "20 Feet From Stardom." In it, she says it wasn't always easy and times did get hard financially.

"It got so bad, I started cleaning houses," she says in the movie. "I just looked up, and said, 'OK, you are supposed to be singing.'"

Her fans are happy she is, purchasing copies of her book at Barnes and Noble and expressing all their love for Darlene.

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