You can watch Darlene Love perform here andhere. And view photos here

Jim Braude: Darlene it's great to see you. Thanks so much for being here.

Darlene Love: Nice to see you.

JB: So you started singing with The Blossoms, right?

DL: Right.

JB: How old were you?

DL: Sixteen.

JB: When you first heard your voice on a record with The Blossoms, what'd that feel like?

DL: It was just very weird, it's like out of body. You know, ‘That's the way I sound?’ Because, you know, we don't know how you sound when until you hear your voice recorded.

JB: Did you love it?

DL: Yes! I thought it was great. Boy, I really sound good.

JB: It was the late 50s, early 60s, right, were The Blossoms.

DL: Right. Late 50s.

JB: Were there any black background singers in those days?

DL: There was none. And it's amazing how we didn't really realize that until many, many years later when we couldn't handle all the work. Producers like to, if they have a sound that they like and they knew they could use it, then they want to keep using you. And we could not do all the work, so we didn't. We only knew black singers, so we gave it to them.

JB: And Phil Spector, one of those producers, a legendary producer, now in a little bit of trouble obviously. He didn't want anybody to know you were black. Is that true? That's what I've read.

DL: It's very true we never took pictures of us. We would never, on any albums, they really didn't have a lot of albums in the 60s except for the Nat King Cole and those people, but as rock and roll singers we didn't do albums with our pictures on them. So he didn't tell anybody. They didn't ask. He didn't tell them.

JB: You know one of my favorite songs when I was a kid and virtually everybody could say the same thing is ‘He’s a Rebel.’ Now, I've heard you say in interviews, “I've never had a number one single.” But in fact you have had a number one single. You just weren't credited with the number one single. So The Blossoms sing He's a Rebel, written by Gene Pitney, the credit is given to The Crystals, who did not sing the song. Number one on the charts. That was okay with you too?

DL: That was okay with me because then I said to myself, ‘This man knows how to make hit records.’

JB: Meaning Specter.

DL: Phil Specter. And then he asked us to sign. So it was okay, it wasn't really weird because I went into that session knowing that that song was going to be for the Crystals.

JB: But wait a second.

DL: It wasn't a shock.

JB: Everybody in America is, I can sing it now I won't, everybody's singing the song everywhere in America. You know that they're singing along with you. And they don't know it and it doesn't bother you?

DL: Today they do know though.

JB: That's a very good point.

DL: Now.

JB: You have a longer memory that I do.

DL: Thirty, forty years ago they didn't know.

JB: Why'd you leave the music business when you did?

DL: Um, problems, marital. I had children and it was just too much going on at one time. I lost my father and I just loved my father. You know if he wasn't there to be my burden bearer then what? You know, and then I figured let me to stay at home and go back to doing sessions again. What happened, once you leave somebody else takes your place, and we had got a lot of other black great singers to do background and they wasn't givin' it up.

JB: But you decide, despite the fact they were givin’ up, this is like a legendary story, I know you've told a thousand times. You're cleaning some, what a mansion or something, in Beverly Hills.

DL: Cleaning a mansion in--

JB: How much money you making?

DL: Fifty dollars a day.

JB: Fifty bucks, which you thought was okay?

DL: Yeah.

JB: And what happened while you're cleaning the mansion?

DL: It was amazing because – I love telling this story because it's unlike any other story. I was cleaning the bathroom, and you know the bathroom in peoples' houses is usually the worst place to clean.

JB: I'm aware of that, yes.

DL: Plus if you have boys.

JB: Okay, we know that too, okay.

DL: Anyway, the song came on I heard it.

JB: Christmas (Baby Please Come Home.)

DL: Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) down the hall, it took me a minute, like, you know you stop, yeah that's my song. I knew right then right at that moment that I was supposed to be back out singing.

JB: You're a big time person of faith. Is that what it was?

DL: Yeah.

JB: It was God talking to you?

DL: It was my, it was my faith in God that I believe that everything that happens to me, whether it's good or bad, it was supposed to happen. I don't look at it as bad I look at it as supposed to happen. To keep you not just humble but keep you in the right mind like hey you ain't all that.

JB: Were you a different person when you came back as a performer or were you not?

DL: No, because I had never performed as a solo artist. So it made me see all the work that I really had to do. Most producers who produce live shows want to know that you have a hit record so people come out and see you. It was hard for me to explain that was me on He's A Rebel and Be Sure the Boy I Love, which both of those records, one was a top 10 and the other one was number one record. They heard the voice and they know, but we can't. I never went out saying, “I'm Crystal and that's my record.” People found that out on their own.

JB: Most people know a lot of these names. Give us a sampling of some of the names of these huge stars with whom you sang through all these years.

DL: Well I always love to say Elvis Presley because we really did bind because of gospel. We loved gospel and so did we, meaning The Blossoms.

JB: He wanted to bond with you a little bit more than just that way, is that correct?

DL: Yeah, yeah, he had ideas in his head he thought.

JB: How'd that go?

DL: That left us like, you never thought about it, I ain't doing it.

JB: What did he say to you?

DL: He said that he never thought about having a relationship with a black woman before and I say, “Well you ain't gonna have one with this one.”

JB: So give me some more of the huge players.

DL: Uh, well, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., and then Luther Vandross, Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick, The Beach Boys. Okay, here we go, Sam Cooke. And all these people were current of day, and I tell people all the time we had more we did more sessions with people that didn't hits than we did with the stars.

JB: And you were good where you were. I mean, you were good, as we learned from the film “20 Feet from Stardom.” You were good and happy where you were.

DL: Yes and I tell the story because we were having such a good time and, honey, were we making money, but nobody being bothered with the way you looked, way you dress.

JB: What kind of money are we talking about?

DL: We're talking about $3,000 a week.

JB: That was real money.

DL: Back in the 60s.

JB: In the 60s?

DL: In the 60s. Yeah. I went out on the road with Nancy Sinatra for a year and a half. We were making almost $5,000 a week. And nothing coming out of it. You know we didn't have to buy no music, they pay for your airfare, the hotel. That was clear money, and we declared it at the end of the year but still, in the 60s and the 70s, that was a lot. There's a lot of backup singers today that’s not making that kind of money.

JB: When you move to the front of the stage, when you traveled those 20 feet, Bruce Springsteen I think or Sting or somebody says, in 20 Feet From Stardom, it's a long, long walk. Were you the same person when you went to the front of the stage as you were when you're singing backup, or did you change?

DL: No, no, no, very much so.

JB: Very much so the same?

DL: The same because it's for your good. Because I respect the business, the singing business that we are in, and I think if you don't respect it, it will hurt you. It hurts you when you do, but it will hurt you if you don't respect it. And I tried to keep that Darlene Love who was singing backup when I went that 20 feet up in the front, because you want the audience to know that.

JB: You know, 20 Feet From Stardom, which is where I think a lot of people saw your face and attached the voice. Obviously it won an Academy Award a couple years before you're inducted in the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, which obviously is long overdue, but it happened. The thing that came through from “20 Feet From Stardom” to me, and I've only seen it about 30 times, I mean literally, I should say, is the strength of the bond – Lisa Fisher was here a few weeks ago, just a spectacular singer and person – the bond is pretty intense between those of you who are background singers, no?

DL: You know what the bond is? We don't say it, but we great. (Laughs.) And people only want to use the best people who sing background. We don't allude that, you know, we don't say, “Hey, I know I'm great,” you know, but our bond – that's what our bond is, baby, people use us. Because we are the best in the business.

JB: I had a lot more questions, but how do you not end there. So great, Darlene. Thanks so much for your time.

DL: Thank you.