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Darlene Love's season

The singer was a Phil Spector star in the '60s, and now she's a holiday staple.

December 21, 2009|By Moira E. McLaughlin

If ever there was an ambassador for Christmas, it's singer Darlene Love.

"My favorite season of the whole year is Christmas," she says from her home in Rockland, N.Y. "People forget about me all year. In November, they remember."

Darlene Love may not be a household name, but chances are you know her. In 1963, she recorded the Phil Spector song "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)." Since then the song has been covered by myriad musicians: U2, KT Tunstall, Joey Ramone. But Love's original version, with her wailing, emotive soprano, is a quintessential Christmas song.

Love, 68, a minister's daughter, grew up in Los Angeles. At 16, she started singing with the Blossoms. Under Spector's guidance, she sang such hits as "Today I Met the Boy I'm Gonna Marry" and "He's a Rebel."

Despite her soulful and uninhibited lead vocals, Love found success mostly as a backup singer, a job she loved. "Most singers can't do background. Truly they can't blend," she says. It's about enhancing the songs and working well with others, she notes.

In the 1980s Love went solo but found it hard to make the leap from background to foreground. She cleaned houses for a time to earn money. A move to New York, however, helped her career, and she started singing at such venues as Rainbow and Stars, Joe's Pub and the Bottom Line.

She got a break in the late '80s, albeit an acting one. The casting director for the 1987 film "Lethal Weapon" was a fan, and Love was cast as Trish Murtaugh, the wife of Danny Glover's character.

Love got another break of sorts in the '90s when she won a lawsuit against Spector for unpaid royalties.

But Christmas has always been Love's big season. For 24 years, she has appeared on David Letterman's show to sing "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)."

Today, Love is a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. She is an author. She wrote her autobiography in 1998.

But she is still a minister's daughter at heart. "I celebrate Christmas because of Jesus' birthday," Love says. During the holidays, she volunteers at a shelter feeding the hungry, and she sings to sick children at a hospital.

McLaughlin writes for the the Washington Post

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